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The Human Toll

Portfolio.com
Tuesday, 13 Jan 2009 | 10:09 AM ET

A cluster of high-profile suicides has attracted a fair amount of attention as well as sympathy for those who have taken their lives and for those they left behind. Here's a partial list of those who either explicitly blamed economic misfortune for their deaths or whose deaths were linked to the economy by the police.

1) Adolf Merckle, industrialist
January 6, 2009

Merckle, 74, managed the fortune built by his German family.

The conglomerate, which included stakes in a pharmaceutical wholesaler, generic-drug maker, cement company, and bus manufacturer, was hit hard by Merckle's failed speculation on Volkswagen stock. He bet VW would fall, but it quadrupled in two days last October after Porsche revealed it had options to buy virtually all of the outstanding shares.

Bankers told Reuters the family lost about 400 million euros — roughly half a billion dollars at the time — on the VW bet.

2. Steven Good, real estate executive
January 6, 2009

Good, 52, was chief executive of Sheldon Good & Co.

His Chicago firm is one of the nation's largest real-estate auction houses. His death came amid great turmoil in the country's real estate industry. In his role as chairman of the Realtors Commercial Alliance Committee, Good commented on tough conditions last month at a business conference.

3. René-Thierry Magon de La Villehuchet, investor
December 23, 2008

De la Villehuchet, 65, was the founder of Access International Advisors.

A French aristocrat and the former chairman and C.E.O. of Credit Lyonnais Securities USA, de la Villehuchet had invested $1.4 billion of his and his clients money with Bernard L. Madoff, who earlier in December said that his business was an enormous Ponzi fraud.

The slump takes its toll

4. Eric Von der Porten, fund manager
December 8, 2008

Von der Porten, 50, was managing director of Leeward Investments L.L.C.

A former Congressional staff member, Von der Porten built a wealth of experience in commercial lending, mergers and acquisitions, and leveraged buyouts while working at Bank of America. In 1997, he struck out on his own, founding his hedge fund firm San Carlos, California.

His fund, however, was not immune to the overall market meltdown, and fell more than 40 percent in 2008. His brother, Michael, told the San Francicso Chronicle that the slump was a "key part" of his suicide. "Eric cared a lot about his work and felt responsible for people who had invested with him," Michael Von der Porten said.

5. Alex W. Widmer, banker
December 5, 2008

Widmer, 52, was chief executive of Bank Julius Baer.

The Swiss bank's stock has dropped by two-thirds in the last year, but bank officials said Widmer's death was unrelated to the business. His death came offshore private banks were under increased scrutiny over whether their secrecy helps clients to evade taxes.

6. Choi Seong-guk, asset manager
November 19, 2008

Choi, 55, was chief executive of a small Korean investment firm called Saebit Asset.

He left a note: "Having been under pressure from the cash crunch since August last year from the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis, I worked hard to have my investors at least recover their principal. "I feel sorry to my friends for failing to achieve that. I'd like to pay my debt back by death."

Futures trades, fund executive

7. Joseph A. Luizzi, futures trader
October 16, 2008

Luizzi, 44, was a floor broker at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

A former vice-president of HSBC Securities USA, Luizzi was trading for his own account when he made a series of disastrous trades on S&P 500 index futures. “He explained to his wife that he had made a substantial loss and was despondent that he could never regain that loss,” a police spokesman said. At the time of his death, Luizzi's pockets were filled with trading cards he hadn't turned in.



8. Karthik Rajaram, entrepreneur
October 6, 2008

Rajaram, 45, was a co-founder of an internet business incubator in Los Angeles.

A former executive at PricewaterhouseCoopers who had made more than $1 million on NanoUniverse, a venture fund, Rajaram shot his three children, his wife, and his mother-in-law before taking his own life. In a note, he blamed the financial crisis.



9. Kirk Stephenson, fund executive
September 25, 2008

Stephenson, 47, was chief operating officer of Olivant Ltd., a British investment firm.

As the banking crisis knocked down UBS's stock, Olivant bought 2.8 percent of the Swiss giant. It deposited the shares, worth $1 billion, with Lehman Brothers and let Lehman use them as collateral for loans. But when Lehman filed for bankruptcy in September, Olivant lost control of the stock and is unlikely to recover it.

Bear Stearns employee...

10. Edwin Rachleff, stock broker July 28, 2008

Rachleff, 82, ran the New London, Connecticut, branch of A.G. Edwards.

Described as a pillar of his community, he grew despondent when regulators declared one of his biggest clients, the New London Security Federal Credit Union, was insolvent. Investigators are examining his ties to the credit union. 11. Scott Coles, mortgage executive June 2, 2008

11. Scott Coles, mortgage executive June 2, 2008

Coles, 48, was chief executive of Mortgages Inc.

His Phoenix-based company financed some of Arizona's largest commercial developments, often using high-yield bonds. The business made him a multimillionaire, but as credit tightened and development slowed, his company faltered. Mortgages Inc. filed for bankruptcy shortly after his death. 12. Barry Fox, financial analyst May 23, 2008

12. Barry Fox, financial analyst May 23, 2008

Fox, 51, reviewed research reports before they were made public.

He had worked at Bear Stearns in New York for nine years when the firm collapsed last March, the first investment bank to fold amid the mortgage crisis. A little more than two months later, he learned he would not be offered a job with J.P. Morgan, which had been recruited to acquire Bear Stearns.

13. Walter Buczynski, mortgage executive January 19, 2008

Buczynski, 59, was a top executive at Fieldstone Mortgage.

Two months before his death, Fieldstone, an aggressive subprime mortgage lender based in Columbia, Maryland, filed for bankruptcy protection. At the time he killed his wife and himself, Buczynski owed $656,000 in unpaid taxes.

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