I think the 74-year-old German billionaire had lost all this fortune in speculating and getting caught in the Great Unwind a couple of months ago...
Here's an extract from Bloomberg and from an FT report:
Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) -- German billionaire Adolf Merckle is still in negotiations with more than 30 banks on emergency financing and no deal has been reached, said the family’s VEM Vermoegensverwaltung GmbH investment unit.Suicide confirmation:
Merckle given more time to repay debt (Published: December 30 2008 12:07
German billionaire Adolf Merckle has taken a first step out of a financial crisis triggered by losses in speculative share trading, although any final deal with his banks looked set to diminish or even dissolve his cement-to-pharmaceuticals empire.
Jan. 6 (Bloomberg) -- German billionaire Adolf Merckle committed suicide, “broken” by the collapse of his corporate empire, his family said.
Merckle, 74, was hit by a train near his hometown of Blaubeuren, southeast of Stuttgart, yesterday evening, Die Welt newspaper reported.
“The dedicated family businessman was broken by his inability to handle the situation and he ended his own life,” the Merckle family said in a statement today.
Merckle, whose holdings spanned the cement, machinery and drug industries, was battered by bets on Volkswagen AG, a drop in the value of his HeidelbergCement AG stock and increasing debt. Merckle, whose estimated $9.2 billion fortune put him 94th on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people, had been negotiating for more than two months with a group of more than 30 banks led by Commerzbank AG, Deutsche Bank AG, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and Landesbank Baden-Wuerttemberg.
The Merckle family will likely have to sell stakes in HeidelbergCement, Germany’s biggest cement maker, Phoenix Pharmahandel AG, a drug wholesaler, and Ratiopharm GmbH, a generic drugmaker, people familiar with the matter said on Dec. 15.
HeidelbergCement fell 8.2 percent to 30.60 euros in Frankfurt trading. The Heidelberg-based company declined 70 percent last year, a fall that led the banks to seek additional financial guarantees from the billionaire.