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Roberto Gonzalez Barrera Dead: Mexican Billionaire Known As The 'King Of Tortillas' Dies

08/27/2012 06:31 pm ET | Updated Jul 28, 2014

Mexican businessman Roberto González Barrera died Saturday night in Houston, Texas, from complications of pancreatic cancer. He was 81 years old.

Known as the "King of Tortillas," González founded Gruma, the world's largest corn flour and tortilla company. Gruma sells its goods to well-known brand names such as Mission, Guerrero and Maseca.

While Gruma was González's legacy, he accrued most of his estimated $1.9 billion net worth from his stake in Mexican lender Grupo Financiero Banorte, according to Forbes. González served as chairman emeritus -- chairman for life -- to Banorte, Mexico's fourth largest bank.

González's wealth made him the seventh richest man in Mexico, according to Forbes, but he came from humble beginnings. Born in the village of Cerralvo, in the northeastern state Nuevo León, González's grandmother raised him while his father earned money for the family in Texas. González sought to contribute what he could, and began running errands for neighbors when he was 5.

González continued working odd jobs into his teens -- whether it was selling vegetables or polishing shoes -- until his grandfather asked him which job was most profitable and told him to devote his time to it. Selling vegetables was González's answer, and from then on, he did just that.

Gruma got its official start in 1948, when González and his father invested in their first corn mill. The elder González served as the mill's engineer, tinkering with the devices in the facility, while the younger González focused on fostering sales at the soon-to-be global company.

Roberto González, Jr. was in Houston to receive cancer treatment when he died, The Wall Street Journal reported. His remains will be returned to Mexico this week so that he can be laid to rest in his native country.

"My condolences to the family and friends of Don Roberto González Barrera. I deeply regret the loss of an extraordinary Mexican businessman," Enrique Pena Nieto, the presumed president-elect of Mexico, wrote in a tweet in Spanish.

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