Adolf Merckle

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Adolf Merckle
Born 18 March 1934
Died 5 January 2009(2009-01-05) (aged 74)
Nationality Germany
Occupation Businessman
Net worth Increase US$12.4 billion

Adolf Merckle (18 March 1934 – 5 January 2009) was an entrepreneur and one of the richest people in Germany.[1]

Merckle was born in Dresden, Germany into a wealthy family. He developed his Bohemian grandfather's chemical wholesale company into Germany's largest pharmaceutical wholesaler, Phoenix Pharmahandel. In the early 1970s he founded Germany's first generic drug manufacturer Ratiopharm.[2] Over decades he also held large parts of cement company HeidelbergCement as well as vehicle manufacturer Kässbohrer.

He was educated as a lawyer but spent most of his time investing in and developing his companies. He lived in Germany with his wife and four children.

Merckle made a speculative investment based on his belief that Volkswagen shares would fall; however, in October 2008, Porsche SE's support of Volkswagen sent shares on the Xetra dax from 210.85 to over €1000 in less than two days (a short squeeze), resulting in losses estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars for Merckle.[3]

In 2007, he was worth US$12.8 billion by most estimates (Forbes), and by December 2008 he was worth $9.2 billion, a loss of $3.6 billion. In 2006, he was the world's 44th richest man, dropping to 96th place by December 2008, but still one of Germany's five richest men.


Adolf Merckle committed suicide on 5 January 2009 by throwing himself in front of a train near his hometown of Blaubeuren.[4][5] More than any other single investment, Merckle’s poorly timed short-selling of Volkswagen shares caused the financial distress that led to his death. Believing that Porsche could not complete its takeover of Volkswagen and would have to sell its shares, Merckle and others bet against Volkswagen stock. But Porsche had quietly and effectively cornered Volkswagen stock, so short-sellers such as Merckle could not buy enough Volkswagen stock to cover their short positions. Volkswagen stock therefore quintupled in value in a single day, causing billions in losses for those who had bet against Volkswagen's share price. Faced with such losses, Merckle's cement company was unable to make payments on a huge loan taken out to purchase an English competitor, Hanson.[6]


  1. ^ Adolf Merckle on
  2. ^ [1] company history on
  3. ^
  4. ^ Tromm, Helmuth and Sheenagh Matthews. 6 January 2009. Billionaire Merckle Killed by Train. Bloomberg News.
  5. ^ German billionaire Adolf Merckle commits suicide. The Associated Press.
  6. ^ Dougherty, Carter (7 January 2009). "Facing Losses, Billionaire Takes His Own Life". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-06.