Carlos Slim Bullish on the New York Times at Milken Conference

Carlos Slim Mexican Tycoon - P 2012
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Carlos Slim Mexican Tycoon - P 2012

The Mexican billionaire, the newspaper's second-biggest investor, also disputed being a monopolist in his native country.

Carlos Slim, by some accounts the richest man in the world, gave a vote of confidence to The New York Times on Monday during a discussion with Larry King.

Slim, a Mexican billionaire investor worth roughly $50 billion, said The Times, which has gone through layoffs and other cost-cutting measures, is healthy because of its international reputation for solid news, and it will thrive in a digital environment, even as advertisers and readers increasingly abandon physical newspapers.

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The quality of the news is ultimately what's important; "paper is a secondary thing," he said.

Slim loaned -- and was repaid -- $250 million to The Times and is the company's second biggest investor. He was speaking on a stage with King at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills. King and Slim are partners in Ora TV, a digital TV network launched in 2012.

While he spoke highly of The Times, Slim demurred when King asked the billionaire's opinion of President Barack Obama, earning giggles from many among the several hundred people in the audience who didn't buy his claim that he hasn't been paying attention to politics outside of Mexico.

King grilled him on the assertion by some in Mexico that his businesses are monopolies. "'Mono' means one," Slim said, before listing a litany of telecommunications, TV and other companies that compete with him in 18 different countries.

King said he was "fascinated" by Slim's wealth, but Slim said he doesn't keep track of how much he is worth day-to-day and never thinks about whether he has more or less money than Bill Gates, who is usually his competition for richest person in the world.

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Slim said one of his passions is baseball, but it's "crazy" to purchase a team for business purposes. When King mentioned Guggenheim Partners' investment in the Los Angeles Dodgers, Slim said: "Congratulations."

King praised Slim as a "wonderful partner" but didn't discuss Ora TV with him.

King, riffing off of Slim's love of baseball, ended with a plea to Michael Milken to invite Yogi Berra to next year's conference.