By Jay Akasie, and Dolly Setton
as Latin American markets started overheating last autumn, the fallout
from Asia's economic crisis took hold. But the setback was a relative hiccup
for the region's billionaires. On average, they're a respectable $800 million
richer than last year. Going public is one way to grow rich quicker. Mexico's
Ricardo Salinas Pliego has taken two companies public since last June,
nearly doubling his worth on paper in the process.
By Jay Akasie and Dolly Setton
Emilio Azcarraga Jean and Family
Net worth: $3.5 billion
Claim to fame: The youngest person on this list, took over as
chairman of Grupo Televisa, the top Spanish-language media group, after
dad, Emilio, died last year. Now 30, he's wowed analysts by cutting costs,
hiring smart management.
Assets: Family owns more than half of Televisa, which has stopped
losing market share to Salinas Pliego's (see) TV
Azteca. Sold stake in PanAmsat, maybe to pay down debt. The Gen-X chairman
may also sell some of its holding in U.S. Spanish-language broadcaster
Ricardo Salinas Pliego and Family
Net worth: $3.2 billion
Billionaire in the news.
Eugenio Garza Laguera and Family
Net worth: $2.9 billion
Claim to fame: Prominent member of Monterrey, Mexico's equivalent
of the Rockefeller family. At 75, chairs Grupo Financiero Bancomer, Mexico's
second-largest bank, and Fomento EconÛmico Mexicano (FEMSA),
a leading brewer and Coke bottler.
Assets: Family owns 47% of FEMSA, which
listed ADRs on the NYSE in May.
Plus estimated 25% of Bancomer, which was charged with money laundering
by the U.S. Treasury in May. But Garza can boast of the 105% surge in Bancomer
shares in the year through April.
Lorenzo Zambrano and Family
Net worth: $2.9 billion
One of FORBES' top ten entrepreneurs.
Alfonso Romo Garza
Net worth: $2.4 billion
Claim to fame: Related by marriage to Garza Lag¸era (see);
his Empresas La Moderna sold its tobacco business to B.A.T Industries last
summer for $1.7 billion.
Assets: His Pulsar International group is heavy into agribiotech;
its Seminis subsidiary is world's largest fruit and vegetable seed company.
Also owns 60% of Seguros Comercial America, the largest insurance company
Time off: Garza, 48, rides horses daily.
Isaac Saba Raffoul and Family
Net worth: $2 billion
Claim to fame: Cheapskate polyester billionaire, 74. Son of
a Syrian immigrant, he built a textile and real estate empire by picking
up assets on the cheap. Now he has partnered with Americans Charles and
David Koch's (see) Koch Industries to spend an estimated $2.7 billion
on bulk of Hoechst's global polyester business.
Assets: Owns 32% of Grupo Celanese, Mexico's biggest synthetics
manufacturer. Plus real estate, food and textile firms.
Time off: Thriftiness. "He calls me collect for free advice,"
says a top Mexican lawyer of Saba.
Leonor Mendoza and Family
Net worth: $3.1 billion
Claim to fame: Old-line family selling off bank assets to concentrate
on beverage and food giant Polar Group. Though matriarch Leonor (Tita)
is boss, son Lorenzo runs daily operations.
Assets: Swapped stock of Banco Provincial for 3% of Spain's
mammoth Banco Bilbao Vizcaya. Local Pepsi bottler, picked up last year,
is chipping away at rival Cisneros' (see) Coke market share.
Time off: Press-shy but for the awarding of the prestigious
Polar Foundation's scientific prizes and scholarships.
Gustavo Cisneros and Family
Net worth: $2.1 billion
Claim to fame: His companies do everything from distributing
Budweiser to producing Miss Venezuela pageant. Hooked up with Toronto-based
Labatt brewery last year to extend family beer interests throughout South
Assets: With partners brought DirecTV to
Latin America; launched $500 million media buyout fund with U.S. firm Hicks,
Muse, Tate & Furst. Also owns 12% of Panamerican Beverages, Latin America's
largest soft drink bottler.
Time off: With his wife, Patricia, has spent time among Venezuela's
Yanomami and Yebuana tribes; has a collection of their artifacts.