Adolf Merckle, the German billionaire whose speculation in volatile Volkswagen stock had pushed his sprawling business empire to the edge of ruin, has committed suicide, his family said Tuesday.

Mr. Merckle, 74, was found dead on railroad tracks near his villa in the southern German hamlet of Blaubeuren on Monday evening. German authorities in the nearby city of Ulm confirmed the death and said there was no sign anyone else was involved.

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