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The Billionaires
  Search the 1998 World Billionaires database 
The Americas 

By Jay Akasie, and Dolly Setton 
Just 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 Univision. 

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 in Mexico. 
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 America. 
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. 


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