Adolf Merckle, the German family business tycoon, committed suicide on Monday it has been confirmed.
In a statement, his family said "the desperate situation of his companies, caused by the financial crisis, the uncertainties of the last few weeks and his powerlessness to act, broke the passionate family entrepreneur and he took his own life."
The 74-year-old, who is Germany's fifth richest individual with an estimated fortune of €7 billion, made a series of bad financial bets that left his investment company, VEM, owing banks €5 billion.
Chief among his losses was what is being reported as several hundred million euros he gambled on shorting VW shares. Family-owned Porsche's clandestine stockpiling meant Merckle and many hedge funds suffered huge losses.
Born into a wealthy family in Dresden in 1934, Merckle inherited a small pharmaceutical company from his father in the 1960s. He developed his grandfather's chemical wholesale company into Germany's largest pharmaceutical wholesaler, Phoenix Pharmahandel, while his family owns the generic drug manufacturer Ratiopharm, large parts of cement company HeidelbergCement and vehicle manufacturer Kässbohrer.
He leaves behind his wife Ruth, sons Ludwig, Philipp Daniel and Tobias and a daughter, Jutta.