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German Billionaire Allegedly Commits Suicide Over Global Crash

A 74-year-old German billionaire whose industrial empire was on the rocks has killed himself, his family said Tuesday, reportedly by throwing himself under a train.

Adolf Merckle

Adolf Merckle's empire was rocked by the financial crisis and he apparently lost all hope

Adolf Merckle's family said that the effect of the financial crisis on his various businesses and the "powerlessness of not being able to do anything, broke this passionate family businessman and he ended his life."

The statement did not say how Merckle killed himself but media reports said that he had been hit by a train near his home not far from Ulm in south-western Germany.

Merckle headed the world's 94th biggest fortune, according to Forbes magazine, with a total net worth last March of more than $9 billion (6.7 billion euros).

But he lost heavily last year after a bet on Volkswagen shares went the wrong way, forcing him into talks with banks to save his industrial empire, which included holdings in the cement, machinery and drug industries.

The Die Welt daily cited a police spokesman in Ulm as confirming that a dead man had been found on the train tracks but he gave no details on his identity.

Merckle's VEM holding company controls the pharmaceutical group Ratiopharm, building materials giant Heidelberg Cement and one of Europe's biggest wholesale drug distributors, Phoenix.

His interests also included the manufacturing of electric motors, machine tools and snow equipment.

Over Christmas, a spokeswoman for VEM said Merckle was close to a long-term deal with around 30 creditor banks to save his empire.

The Financial Times cited sources as saying that he had secured a three-month loan of 400 million euros ($535 million.)

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