Died: January 5, 2009 (Germany)
Best Known as: one of the richest people in Germany
Adolf Merckle, a billionaire businessman and one of the richest men in Gemany, took his own life on January 5, 2009. Born into a wealthy family, Merckle did much to expand his family's holdings. He owned Germany's largest pharmaceutical wholesaler, among many other interests. But a string of bad investments, including speculation on Volkswagen stock and the purchase of a British cement company, caused him to lose billions and incur massive debts. At the time of his death, it was unclear if his assets would meet those debts.