Adolf Merckle: what made this German billionaire commit suicide?
The suicide of billionaire industrialist Adolf Merckle may have had more to do with family duty than fluctuating finances.
Shortly before 5pm on Monday night, Adolf Merckle quietly put on his coat, told his wife "I have to go to the office for a while", and drove to a railway embankment near his home, where he lay on the frozen tracks and waited patiently for death.
Merckle was once ranked as one of the 100 richest men in the world, with an £8.5 billion personal fortune, but he had seen his wealth ebbing away as the global recession took hold, leaving him a "broken" man, according to his family.
To casual observers, it appeared that the 74-year-old businessman had committed suicide because he was unable to cope with losing the sort of riches the rest of us can only dream of.
Yet the trappings of wealth meant nothing to Merckle; to him money was simply an inevitable by-product of his success, never a goal in itself.
He lived so modestly that he cycled to work on a 15-year-old bike for most of the year, and in bad weather he drove a four-year-old VW Golf. He had no bodyguards or servants, lived in an unimposing chalet-style house in the small town of Blaubeuren, his home for the past 60 years, without so much as a CCTV camera for protection, and stopped off at his local pub on his way home each night to share a drink with the regulars.