German owner of UK cement firms including Hanson despaired as economic downturn hit his empire

The owner of several UK cement companies has committed suicide due to financial woes triggered by the credit crunch.

German billionaire Adolf Merckle, was 94th on Forbes’ rich list for 2008, but killed himself after his business empire began to crumble in the wake of the economic downturn.

The 74-year-old tycoon made his fortune after developing a small inherited pharmaceutical firm, employing 80 workers, into Germany’s largest pharmaceutical wholesaler. Merckle’s business empire grew to include drug manufacturer Ratiopharm, and large parts of vehicle manufacturer Kassbohrer and Heidelberg Cement Group. He employed 100,000 people by the time of his demise.

HeidelbergCement acquired Hanson in 2007, but was reportedly having problems digesting its former UK competitor.

Other British firms included within the Heidelberg Cement Group include Castle Cement, recycling company SRM , and Minerals Resource Management, a firm which recycles inorganic materials into the cement industry.