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German billionaire kills self, family says

  • Story Highlights
  • Adolf Merckle was No. 94 on Forbes list of world's richest people
  • Merckle's net worth estimated to be $9.2 billion
  • Billionaire was killed by a train in German town of Ulm
  • Family says financial woes "broke the passionate family business man"
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(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.

"The financial troubles of his companies, induced by the international financial crisis and the uncertainty and powerlessness to act independently which the financial problems brought about, broke the passionate family business man, and he took his own life," his family wrote in the news release.

An employee of Germany's railroad company found the body on the tracks at about 7 p.m. Monday and notified authorities. Merckle's family had already reported him missing earlier in the day after he walked out of the house and did not return. Authorities are currently conducting DNA tests to confirm his identity.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen in Germany and Alysen Miller in London, England, contributed to this report.

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