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"Robber Baron" Transforms Into "Shrewd Businessman" After Loan to NYT

Carlos Slim, described in 2007 as a "thief" and "robber baron" by a Times editorial writer, is now "a very shrewd businessman with an appreciation for great brands," according to the paper's publisher. What changed? A $250 million loan from Slim to the NYT Co., for one.

Contributing to Time Magazine's 2009 "Time 100" list, Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. sucked up to Mexican media mogul Carlos Slim (who hascoincidentally purchased 6% of NYT Co. shares and lent the company $250 million recently). After acknowledging Slim's investment in NYT Co., Sulzberger gushed:


Carlos, a very shrewd businessman with an appreciation for great brands, showed a deep understanding of the role that news, information and education play in our interconnected global society....As he spoke at our meeting, he conveyed the quiet but fierce confidence that has enabled him to have a profound and lasting effect on millions of individuals in Mexico and neighboring countries. Carlos knows very well how much one person with courage, determination and vision can achieve.


Geez. That slobbering is quite a change from the paper's attitude toward Slim less than two years ago, when Eduardo Porter labeledthe Mexican mogula thief and robber baron in an August 2007 editorial:


Indeed, by this measure, Mr. Slim is richer even than the robber barons of the gilded age. John D. Rockefeller, America's richest man, was worth the equivalent of about 1.5 percent of the nation's G.D.P.


It takes about nine of the captains of industry and finance of the 19th and early 20th centuries - Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, John J. Astor, Andrew Carnegie, Alexander Stewart, Frederick Weyerhaeuser, Jay Gould and Marshall Field - to replicate the footprint that Mr. Slim has left on Mexico.


But the momentous scale is not the most galling aspect of Mr. Slim's riches. There's the issue of theft.


Like many a robber baron - or Russian oligarch, or Enron executive - Mr. Slim calls to mind the words of Honoré de Balzac: "Behind every great fortune there is a crime." Mr. Slim's sin, if not technically criminal, is like that of Rockefeller, the sin of the monopolist.