World's richest man, Slim, a born wheeler-dealer

Wed Mar 10, 2010 6:49pm EST
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By Noel Randewich

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's Carlos Slim, named the world's richest man on Wednesday, first showed a talent for business as a 10-year-old kid when he filled his pockets with pesos selling drinks and snacks to his family.

As a youngster he also kept accounting ledgers of what he earned and spent and bought a government savings bond from which he learned valuable lessons about compound interest.

More than half a century later Slim, 70, has amassed a fortune of $53.5 billion, beating Microsoft founder Bill Gates to top the list of the world's richest people, according to a new ranking published by Forbes magazine. [nN10134288]

His far-flung business empire includes some of Mexico's best-known department stores, its biggest telecoms operator, hotels, restaurants, oil drilling, building firms and Inbursa bank -- making it hard to go a day in Mexico without paying him some money.

Outside Mexico Slim has holdings in such prestigious groups as retailer Saks and New York Times Co.

His defining foray occurred in 1990 when he and his partners bought creaking state telephone company Telmex for $1.7 billion. Turning it into a cash-making jewel, he spun off America Movil and expanded it through acquisitions to become the world's No. 4 wireless operator.

While critics accuse him of using a monopoly to build his fortune, Slim has a simple philosophy about making money.

"Wealth is like an orchard," he told Reuters in 2007. "With the orchard, what you have to do is make it grow, reinvest to make it bigger, or diversify into other areas."   Continued...

<p>Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim leaves the hotel after a conference with businessmen at the Business Summit in Monterrey, November 8, 2009. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo</p>