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Phil Anschutz: Qwest's $7 Billion Man

The low-profile dealmaker takes his telecom outfit public--and vaults into the spotlight

Most billionaires get rich, then acquire a taste for expensive art. But Phil Anschutz did it the other way around. At age 27, the young art buff traveled to Chicago from his home in Denver and charmed his way into a meeting with the chairman of the Santa Fe Pacific Corp. Anschutz had learned that the railroad owned hundreds of rare paintings stored in its headquarters basement. For the rights to buy a few, he proposed cataloging the collection, which had been originally commissioned to make Santa Fe travel posters.

Talk about an undervalued asset. Until Anschutz showed up, many Santa Fe executives weren't even aware the collection existed. Four days later, he bought 85 paintings for a pittance, walking away with what has become the core of a rare Western Americana collection. "I took the best of their collection," says Anschutz, now 57. Today, the paintings--worth several million dollars--line the walls of his Denver home and a cabin on his 30,000-acre ranch.