Carlos Slim: The Richest Man You've Never Heard Of

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim doesn't believe in flaunting his wealth.

ByABC News via logo

Oct. 8, 2007 — -- Carlos Slim may be the richest man you've never heard of.

Slim, named by Forbes magazine the world's richest man in 2007, is worth nearly $68 billion; he earns more that $27 million a day -- more than Donald Trump, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. The Mexico-born Slim owns businesses in everything from concrete to telephones to soft drinks.

His art collection is legendary. So is his disinterest in the celebrity of money. Magazine covers proclaiming him the wealthiest man on the planet mean nothing to him.

"I don't know if it's true or not true, it doesn't matter," Slim told ABC News' Diane Sawyer.

In his first interview for American television, Slim took Sawyer on a tour of his offices. The New York Yankees were playing on every TV screen. The tables and chairs belonged to his father, a Lebanese immigrant who taught his son about managing finances.

Slim's father made him keep a ledger of how he spent his 5 peso weekly allowance. Slim still keeps that ledger in his office.

Of his own children, Slim, 67, has a saying: "It's important to give a better country to your children, but it is more important to give better children to your country."

All six of his children work for his company. He raised them to stick together above all.

"They used to sleep in the same room, the three of them," Slim said, talking about his sons. "And also my three girls sleep in the same room. They have only one bath."

Slim doesn't even own a computer. He wears a Swiss Army watch, and he can't understand American billionaires who love to flaunt their wealth.

"You want to have a toy and another toy and that's not maturity," Slim said. "The biggest things in life are not materials."

Slim's incredible success is not the only indication of modern Mexico's vitality. International Living Magazine recently named Mexico the best place to retire on Earth. A Mexican high schooler won the gold medal for math in the international math Olympics.

And for all the poverty, the nation is sitting atop the fifth largest oil reserve on the planet, and it is already the world's 12th largest economy.

Not everyone is a Slim admirer. The Wall Street Journal has questioned the health of Mexico's economy when 7 percent of the gross national product and 40 percent of the stock market can be traced to one man -- Slim.

Political analyst Denise Dresser said Slim has such a monopoly on business Mexico he strangles competition. As a protest, she carries an American phone so her pesos don't add to his mounting fortune.

"Mr. Slim is not capable of understanding that he is blocking competition, and in doing so, he is holding the country back," Dresser said.

Slim said he is all for competition, but he says many U.S. business leaders are not looking far enough into the future. He believes American leaders are not giving hard-working American laborers the kind of vision needed to stay ahead, for example, of the Chinese.

"China is thinking very clear of the future and doing the job that they need to do," Slim said.

Specifically, Slim said China is training workers in technology and making companies bigger yet more efficient.

Slim does, however, praise American baseball players.

He listed his favorite hitters: "Baby Ruth, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams… Lou Gehrig and Barry Bonds." He added, "Alex Rodriguez, he's great."

Sawyer asked Slim, "If someone said to you, if you give up all your businesses tomorrow you can be Rodriguez, tomorrow you could be Babe Ruth, would you give it all up to be Babe Ruth?"

The world's richest man said no; he's content to fly under the radar with his eyes on his businesses and surrounded by his family.

"No, because I don't give up my family. It's not the problem of only wealth, it's a problem of your environment," he said. Plus, if he were Babe Ruth, "I will be dead already for many years."