Mexico, the sometimes-underestimated next door neighbour to the United States, has a GDP over a trillion dollars mainly dominated by the private sector. The country’s free market economy supports free trade between Mexico and other countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Japan, the European Union and Honduras, among others. Both modern and traditional industries operate in the country but agriculture is still a key aspect of local economy. Recent governmental reforms have expanded Mexico’s seaports, telecommunication facilities, electricity generation, airports and natural gas distribution.
This all sounds great but unfortunately, a small minority are benefiting from the financial gains of Mexico’s advancement. Income distribution among Mexicans remains markedly unequal and the country’s per capita income is about one-third of that of the United States. USA and Canada are among some of the major exporters of goods from Mexico, and the country has recently signed numerous free trade agreements: In July 2012 Mexico, Peru, Chile and Colombia formed the Pacific Alliance. During the same year, Mexico joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership to increase external trade. However, when Mexico was hit by the economic downturn, the nation’s exports, investments and remittances from abroad dropped significantly.
Mexico is a predominantly Spanish-speaking, Catholic country. About 92.7% of the people in Mexico speak Spanish, with a minority 5.7% speaking indigenous languages. Approximately 83% of the population is Roman Catholic, with only 1.6% identifying as Protestant and 5% following Evangelical churches. The country faces some serious social and economic concerns such as low wages, high unemployment rates for a large portion of the population- as well as the question of wealth distribution. Poverty is rife and powerful drug cartels in the country have been known to engage in bloody feuds leading to the loss of thousands of lives.
We’ve painted Mexico in as honest a way as we can, and for many it’s not a bright picture. But, despite these economic and social concerns, there are some noteworthy winners in Mexico; it’s home to some of the richest people in the world – including the man who once held the title of the richest man in the world, and is now runner-up to that accolade. Among a country of extreme poverty and even more extreme riches, we’ve selected the top 10 Mexican billionaires of 2013.
10. Jose and Francisco Jose Rojas, $2.3 billion
These two brothers are relatively new to the billionaire club; most of their wealth is thanks to a large stake in FEMSA. The billionaires’ father was a co-founder of the firm, which monopolises the distribution of carbonated beverages in Mexico. But they’re not just entitled heirs; these brothers have inherited their dad’s business savvy. Jose has successfully expanded Coca Cola FEMSA to become one of the biggest bottlers in the world, and the firm bought a 51% stake of Coca Cola’s bottling industry in the Philippines earlier this year. FEMSA, under the leadership of Jose, has plans to expand its operations into Asia in future. Jose Rojas is 59 years old and holds a law degree from Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon.
9. Rufino Vigil Gonzalez, $ 2.4 billion
65 years old Rufino Vigil Gonzalez is a married father of 4 and one of Mexico’s elite billionaires. He’s a graduate of Universidad Iberoamericana and made most of his money in the lucrative steel industry. Gonzalez owns over 60% of Industias CH, an industrial steel firm. The billionaire is also the Chairman of the company, worth about $3.4 billion and producing about 5 million tons of steel each year. Industias CH merged with Grupo Ruvi in 1999 and also purchased 82.5% of a steel smelter called Grupo Simec. Simec has about 24 production and processing units, 16 of which are in Mexico, and the rest spread across Canada and the United States.
8. Emilio Azcarraga Jean, $2.5 billion
Emilio Azcarraga is the youngest billionaire in Mexico at age 45. He’s not only the president but also the CEO of Televisa, a giant TV broadcaster in Mexico which is known to generate and produce some of the best programs and content in Mexico. Emilio bought a 50% stake in Lusacell in order to compete with industry giant Carlos Slim who has numerous interests in the telecommunication sector. Emilo sits on the board of Endeavor, Univision and Grupo Financiero Banamex. Young and eligible he may be, but Emilo is already married with a child.
7. Jeronimo Arango, $4 billion
Although he is a Mexican citizen, Jeronimo Arango is in fact Spanish-born.The 87-year old made his wealth in 1997 after selling his family’s stake in Cifra to Wal-Mart which was later renamed Wal-Mart de Mexico. Jeronimo has taken his wealth out of Mexico, investing in real estate properties and residing in Los Angeles. Despite dropping out of university and failing to complete his art and literature degree, this businessman has made billions from his wise move in selling up to American giant Walmart.
6. Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala Larregui, $5 billion
50 year old mother of 2 Maria Larregui holds a Bachelor’s degree from Autonomo de Mexico. Maria Larregui, also known as Mariasun, obtained her fortune through the inheritance of stakes in a beer-making firm. After the death of her father in 1995 she partnered with her sister and mother to form a conglomerate that has interests in technology, real estate, telecommunications, land reserves and infrastructure. Maria is the president of Tresalia Capital, Network Abilia Universalia and KIO Networks. Maria also sits on boards of numerous companies in Mexico. Remarkably, she was the first woman board member of the Mexican Stock Exchange and is the second richest woman in Mexico.
5. Eva Gonda Rivera, $6.6 billion
Eva Gonda is the richest woman in Mexico with a net worth of about $6.6 billion. The mother of 5 is the widow of Eugenio Garza and obtained her Bachelor’s degree from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education. Eva’s husband was the chairperson of FEMSA, a firm that distributes beverages in Latin America; when he died, he left his substantial fortune to his family. Eva and her children – her sons feature a bit lower on the Mexican billionaire list – control 50% shares in FEMSA B. The shares trade in Mexico and the New York Stock Exchange.
4. Ricardo Salinas Pliego, $9.9 billion
Ricardo Pliego holds a degree from Technologico de Monterrey and a Masters in Business Administration from Tulane University. The married 58-year old billionaire is the CEO and president of Salinas Group which has invested in media, retail, telecommunications and financial services. The conglomerate has annual revenues of approximately $6 billion. The billionaire took over Grupo Elektra, a family-run firm, which he successfully turned into one of the biggest electronics retailers in Mexico. He had previously featured higher on this list, but Pliego lost over $7 billion over the last year when shares in Elektra fell dramatically. In 1994, Ricardo launched TV Azteca which has grown to be the second largest network broadcaster in Mexico. In April 2012, he purchased Advance America – a cash-advance firm – for a staggering $780 million. Pliego recently made headlines for publicly criticising women who work or study while raising children; we suppose that with $10 billion, his wife can probably afford to stay home.
3. German Larrea Mota Velasco, $16.7 billion
German Larrea has a net worth of $16.7 billion accumulated from diversified areas of the economy. The 60-year old publicity-shy billionaire (it’s almost impossible to find his photo in the media) and his family control 51% of Grupo Mexico, a firm which is among the largest producers of copper in the world and Mexico’s biggest mining conglomerate. The firm has 13 operational mines and about 10 other mines under exploration in Chile, Peru and Mexico. German Larrea formed Grupo Impresa in 1978 and later sold it, making a tidy profit. Larrea also owns over 5,100km of railroad in Mexico – thousands of kilometres of rail which access about 71% of Mexico’s landmass.
2. Alberto Bailleres, $18.2 billion
82 year old Alberto Bailleres is currently the second richest person in Mexico. The billionaire is married and has 4 children. Other than inheritance, his sources of wealth includes investments in the mining sector and various profitable investments made through his company Grupo Bal. The billionaire is also the chairman of Industrias Penoles, the second largest mining firm in the world, which mines silver. Alberto controls Grupo Palacio de Hierro, Grupo Nacional Provincial and Grupo Profuturo. These firms operate a departmental store chain, insurance firm and pension fund manager respectively. The businessman also has a significant stake in FEMSA, the coke bottler responsible for the wealth of at least 3 people on this list.
1. Carlos Slim Helu, $73 billion
73-year old Carlos is a father of 6 and a graduate Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. The billionaire once held the title of the world’s richest man but currently he’s had a fall from grace as only – ! – the second richest man in the world with a net worth of about $73 billion. The largest portion of his wealth comes from investments in the telecommunications sector. However, this business mogul has also invested heavily in real estate companies, mining and financial firms – and in the New York Times. He also owns Mexico’s Leon and Pachuca soccer clubs and Spain’s Real Oviedo, which he purchased in 2012.
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