On a cold evening in January of 2009, 74-year-old corporate titan Adolf Merckle drove to a railway embankment near his home in Germany and stepped in front of a moving train. Once, Merckle had been a billionaire. In 2007, Forbes estimated his fortune at $12.8 billion. But, as the global recession took hold in late 2008, his net worth nose-dived. Estimates put Merckle's losses at several billion. He was forced to relinquish control of a family business that had been founded by his ...

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