Wednesday, January 7, 2009

German billionaire kills self, family says

(CNN) — German billionaire Adolf Merckle, one of the richest men in the world, committed suicide Monday after his business empire got into trouble in the wake of the international financial crisis, Merckle’s family said Tuesday in a statement.

Merckle, 74, was hit by a train in the southwestern town of Ulm, police said.

His family said the economic crisis had "broken" Merckle.

He was number 94 on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people. He had fallen from number 44 on the Forbes 2007 rich list as his fortune declined from $12.8 billion to $9.2 billion in 2008.

Merckle’s business empire included interests as diverse as cement-maker HeidelbergCement and generic drug-maker Ratiopharm. But he lost hundreds of millions of dollars, including company capital, betting against Volkswagen stock last year.

The state government of Baden-Wuerttemberg rejected his petition for financial assistance, and he entered bailout talks with several German banks.

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