The NEWSWEEK 50: Carlos Slim, Mexico

The world's second-richest man made his $60 billion by acquiring Mexico's state-owned telephone monopoly in 1990, parlaying that into an empire of telecommunications, real estate, retail, media and consumer goods. He credits his Lebanese immigrant father, who dealt in dry goods and real estate in Mexico City, with nurturing his financial acumen—as a child, he was given a savings book along with his allowance and told to manage his income.

Slim's $3.5 billion charitable foundation is focusing on health and education projects, but in 2009 he could have a greater impact on ailing companies than on communities; having taken stakes in such U.S. firms as Citigroup and The New York Times, he's one of a group of high-profile foreign businessmen buying up American assets at fire-sale prices. Investors will be watching any future buys—Slim is widely considered to be one of the world's best stock pickers.