A German billionaire, Adolf Merckle pictured here top left, committed suicide after his business empire, which included interests ranging from pharmaceuticals to cement, ran into trouble amidst the current global financial crisis. His weapon of choice, a fast moving train similar to the one pictured here below, which he threw himself in front of and was crushed to death near his villa in Blaubeuren-Weller. Blaubeuren-Weller, in the state of Baden-Württemberg is about 100 miles west of Munich in southwestern Germany.
Adolf Merckle, 74, was ranked as the world's 94th richest person in 2008, with a personal fortune, estimated at $9.2 billion, according to Forbes magazine. According to his family's statement announcing his death, "Adolf Merckle lived and worked for his family and his firms; the distress to his firms caused by the financial crisis and the related uncertainties of recent weeks, along with the helplessness of no longer being able to handle the situation, broke the passionate family businessman, and he ended his life.” The police in Ulm confirmed that his suicide note has been found but has not made the contents public. A native of Dresden, Mr. Adolf Merckle made his way to Western Germany after World War II, where he parlayed his family business in chemicals into one of the biggest pharmaceutical concerns in the world. He built his family’s small pharmaceutical business into a 120-firm conglomerate employing 100,000 people. He was regarded as a modest man who frequently bicycled to work. His business empire also included HeidelbergCement, the company that bought the once mighty British conglomerate Hanson with more than €10 ($15) billion in sales, Ratiopharm, a recognized generics-drugs maker that became a brand unto itself with about €2 ($3) billion in revenue and Phoenix, a drugs wholesaler with about €20 ($30) billion in revenue. Mr. Adolf Merckle also owned stakes in companies that made a wide array of goods from all-terrain vehicles, software to textiles. In addition to his personal worth estimated at more than $9 billion by Forbes magazine, his companies’ combined turnover was in excess of $40 billion, making him Germany’s fifth richest man! The last weeks of his life were spent with his holding company, VEM Vermögensverwaltung wrangling with a consortium of banks for a bridge-loan that would secure credit for his companies, following the global financial meltdown. He was to lose some of his company holdings as a result of the restructuring but which outcome he would rather not see; - his businesses being consumed as a result of disastrous investments and the global financial crisis. Mr. Merckle also lost several hundreds of millions of dollars last year in a misplaced stock-market bets in Volkswagen AG, in which he wagered that the stock price would fall. According to people with knowledge about the matter, the stock instead skyrocketed in what market participants have described as one of the most dramatic short squeezes ever. As Mr. Merckle grew increasingly desperate to keep his empire afloat, he lobbied the regional government in his home state of Baden-Württemberg late last year for temporary financial backing but to no avail; culminating to his death by suicide on Monday, January 5th, 2009. Icheoku asks, did Adolf Merckle sell his soul to the devil of his vast financial empire? How could a billionaire who came to this world with nothing be so distrust that he cannot survive on a few hundreds of millions of dollars less, that he would rather jump in front of a fast moving train? Even if it had meant liquidating or winding-down, any option would have been better than smashing oneself in front of a moving train. That he was facing the possibility of an imminent dismantling of his vast financial and business empire as well as the sale of major holdings in one of his flag-ship company is not a sufficient justification for what his family is now being forced to deal with. According to one analyst, who like Icheoku, could not understand why a billionaire should kill himself because of economic downturn, Mr. Adolf Merckle probably had other issues bothering him and the current economic crisis provided him with the much needed tipping-point to go over the cliff's edge. Mr. Adolf Merckle was survived by his wife and four children. Icheoku does not understand the justification for this suicide as there is nothing to try to understand; however to the bereaved family, we say, seek the face of the Lord for solace as you bear the loss of your patriarch! Please accept our condolence!