The Lebanese-Mexican Banker Who Was Held for a $30M Ransom

Born in Mexico City in 1944 to Lebanese parents, Harp Helu is most famous for being the former owner of the biggest Latin American and Mexican bank: Banamex.

He is also the owner of the telecommunication company Avantel, the second-largest telephone company in Mexico. Harp married twice and has several children.

He and his family with his second wife divide their time between their residences in Mexico City and in Oaxaca City.

In 1994, Harp’s family paid a reported $30 million after he was kidnapped and held for 106 days by his kidnappers somewhere in Mexico City.

The release followed a dramatic television appearance in which his son, accompanied by a family lawyer and a priest, accepted the kidnappers’ terms unconditionally.

At the family’s request, the police did not investigate nor intervene, giving rise to fears that the huge ransom would encourage more kidnappings, and adding to concerns about Mexico’s stability.

In 1996, authorities claimed to have recovered nearly $10 million of the Harp ransom, but the remainder of the money was never replaced.

Harp is known to be quite the baseball fan, owning two professional baseball teams in Mexico: the Diablos Rojos of Mexico City and the Guerreros of Oaxaca City. In 2012, he became part of the MLB San Diego Padres ownership group.

 As of 2011, with a net worth of $1.5 billion, he was the 974th richest person in the world according to Forbes. He happens to be the cousin of Carlos Slim Helu who, as of 2013, is the second richest person in the world as ranked by Forbes.

In 2018, Alfredo Harp Helu ranked #1,867 on the Forbes World’s Billionaires list, with wealth estimated at over US $1.2 billion. On March 23, 2019, the Diablos Rojos del México (Red Devils) opened their Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu baseball stadium in Mexico City.

Alfredo Harp Helú is also a philanthropist with his own-named foundation and numerous contributions across the humanitarian, social, and cultural fields. Among them, his decades of financial support to the Cedros del Libano center for seniors.

In July 2019, he was the recipient of the Smithsonian Philatelic Achievement Award Recipients of the year. The award honors and celebrates “living individuals for outstanding lifetime achievement in the field of philately.”