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Posted Friday, April 13, 2007
                     
Man who could become richest on the planet
                   
By The Telegraph
What you could do with Carlos Slim's $53 billion

A modestly dressed Mexican with a taste for expensive cigars, baseball memorabilia and bonsai trees has overtaken the American investor Warren Buffett as the world's second richest man and is quietly closing in on Bill Gates as the richest man on the planet.

carlos slim.jpg (9367 bytes)
Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim.

Carlos Slim, a magnate whose empire supplies Mexicans with everything from cheap flights to cigarettes, has seen his fortune soar by more than 4 billion (2.02 billion) in two months to $53.1 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

The 67-year-old's net worth outstrips Mr Buffett's holdings, which have fallen to $52.4 billion since Forbes released its table of wealth rankings last month.

Since last year, his fortune has increased by $19 billion because of a strong Mexican economy and soaring stock prices for his businesses.

Mr Gates still holds the top spot with $56 billion but with the Microsoft co-founder increasingly focusing on philanthropy, analysts say Mr Slim is on track to surpass him.

"It's virtually cradle to grave," Prof George Grayson, a Mexico expert at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, told the Los Angeles Times. "You are engulfed by Slim in Mexico."

Mr Slim is the son of a Lebanese-born shopkeeper. As a child he recorded every peso he spent in ledgers that are still in his office.

He bought a cigarette company in the 1970s. Despite an economic collapse and widespread panic in Mexico in the early 1980s, he kept acquiring assets.

The workaholic's charitable foundations have benefited hundreds of thousands of Mexicans. He has funded hospitals, a national archive and an art museum named after his late wife Soumaya, including works by Degas, Monet and the largest Rodin from her private collection.

Mr Slim recently told Forbes that his vision of a businessman's role differed to that of Mr Buffett, who is to donate $ 1.5 billion every year to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"Our concept is more to accomplish and solve things - not going around like Santa Claus," he added. "Poverty isn't solved with donations."

Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2007. Published Friday, April 13, 2007.

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