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Thu, Jan 08, 2009 - Page 10 News List

US and German icons commit suicide

SECOND TRAGEDY Steve Good’s death came hours before that of German billionaire Adolf Merckle, who killed himself after he was brought to the brink of financial ruin

AFP AND AP , CHICAGO AND BERLIN

The head of one of the largest US real estate auction houses was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said on Tuesday.

Steven Good was discovered parked in a forest preserve near Chicago on Monday morning, the Kane County Sheriff’s Department said.

There was no note found in his red Jaguar indicating a motive and it was unclear whether his death was related to his work.

Good, 52, was the chairman and chief executive of Chicago-based Sheldon Good & Company Auctions International. He was the driving force behind the firm’s expansion and was involved in US$4 billion in sales, a company biography said.

Company president Alan Kravets hailed Good as “one of his industry’s most brilliant minds and most successful entrepreneurs” and offered his condolences to Good’s wife, children and father.

“It is testimony to Steve’s leadership that Sheldon Good & Company remains well positioned for the future,” Kravets said in a statement.

Good’s death came hours before that of German billionaire Adolf Merckle, who threw himself under a train after he was brought to the brink of ruin by the financial crisis.

Merckle, a respected businessmen with a wife and four children, jumped in front of a train in the town of Blaubeuren in southwestern Germany, officials said on Tuesday.

His business empire had run into trouble in the crisis, and its problems were compounded by heavy losses in trading of shares in automaker Volkswagen AG. Merckle’s business interests included generic drug maker Ratiopharm International GmbH and cement maker HeidelbergCement AG.

Merckle’s family said in a statement that “the distress to his firms caused by the financial crisis and the related uncertainties of recent weeks, along with the helplessness of no longer being able to act, broke the passionate family businessman.”

Authorities said he left a suicide note, but gave no details.

Merckle becomes the latest high-profile casualty of a global economic crisis that already has claimed the lives of executives in Europe and the US.

In September, Kirk Stephenson — the chief operating officer of private equity house Olivant — jumped in front of a train at a rail station west of London. The 47-year-old husband and father of a young son stepped onto the tracks, was struck and killed.

A British coroner ruled last month that the death was suicide, though the precise reasons remain a mystery. He left no suicide note.

Two days before Christmas, in New York, Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, was found dead at his desk, wrists slashed and bottle of pills nearby after his fortune and the money of his loved ones vanished along with his clients’ funds when he lost US$1.4 billion invested with Bernard Madoff.

The Frenchman’s fund was among the biggest losers in the Madoff fraud, and one of a handful to get taken for more than US$1 billion.

“He was totally ruined,” his brother, Bertrand Magon de la Villehuchet, said in Paris last month.

“At first he thought he’d be able to get the money back. He was very determined. Gradually he realized he wouldn’t be able to,” Bertrand said.

John Lucas, assistant clinical professor at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical College, said that the men may have “considered themselves to be worth as a human being what they were worth at the bank.”

Charles Goodstein, a psychiatrist at the New York University School of Medicine and past president of the Psychoanalytic Association of New York, said Merckle could have been distraught over other issues.

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