USA Today: The richest man you've never heard of
MEXICO CITY — Carlos Slim Helú's business career began on the playground, trading baseball cards.
He would buy the adhesive-backed cards at a candy stand in downtown Mexico City, then make a meticulous record of each trade in a notebook, carefully evaluating whether he had come out on top.
By age 12, he had moved on to trading stocks and bonds. Before turning 30, he owned a soft drink company and a stock brokerage. Now, at 67, Slim is the world's second-richest man and is closing quickly on Bill Gates, according to Forbes magazine's most recent rankings. Slim's business empire stretches from Mexico to the USA — including major stakes in companies such as CompUSA and Saks Fifth Avenue — yet most Americans have never heard of him.
Slim accumulated his $53 billion fortune by collecting companies much as he once did baseball cards. He searches for undervalued businesses, infuses them with cash and uses the size of his holdings to overwhelm the competition. He now owns controlling stakes in at least 222 businesses, but he tells USA TODAY in a rare interview that he has never forgotten the lessons of his youth.
"Buying well is a discipline," he says. "The first type of business negotiation you do as a child. … (Trading cards) was a way to understand supply and demand, to understand the market. … Some boys had few (cards), and some had a lot." ...