German Billionaire Adolf Merckle, who at one point was the 44th richest man in the world, has been found dead from a possible suicide:
Merckle was struck near his hometown of Blaubeuren, southeast of Stuttgart, yesterday evening, the German newspaper said on its Web site today. Police said he may have killed himself, the newspaper said.
Merckle had lost money from a series of wrong-way bets on Volkswagen AG, a drop in the value of his HeidelbergCement AG stake and increasing debt. The 74-year-old, whose estimated $9.2 billion fortune put him 94th on Forbes’s list of the world’s richest people, was negotiating with banks on a bridge loan to rescue his investment company VEM Vermoegensverwaltung GmbH.
The wrong-way bets on Volkswagen occurred when Merckle, like many others, were caught up in a massive short squeeze on the car company’s shares. The move, precipitated by Porsche, briefly made Volkswagen the largest company in the world, crushing a number of investors who bet that the firm was overavlued. The loss on this trade was so severe that Merckle was forced to beg the government for bailout cash.
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