A German billionaire has killed himself after losing money betting on the Volkswagen share price last autumn.

Adolf Merckle was the the world’s 94th-richest person in 2008, according to Forbes magazine, and the fifth richest man in Germany. But he lost an estimated EUR0.5bn when he bet that the stock price would fall in late October. Instead, it rose astronomically from EUR210 to just over EUR1,000 as Porsche announced it was seeking to acquire more shares.

The 74-year-old died when he was hit by a train near his home.

According to Reuters, Merckle was a conservative investor. He received the German Federal Cross of Merit in 2005 for his contribution to the economy in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Merckle had been seeking state guarantees to cover his losses, but this caused an outcry in the German press. “The billionaire with empty pockets” read one headline.