Merckle family empire gets bridge loan

Published 08 January 2009

The Merckle family of Germany said Wednesday that creditors agreed to provide a bridge loan for its VEM Vermögensverwaltung holding company, paving the way for the breakup of the family’s business empire.

Ratiopharm, a generic drug maker, will be sold and Ludwig Merckle will step down as director of VEM as part of an agreement with banks, VEM said.

"We’re happy to have found a solution," Merckle said in a statement. "The operating business at Ratiopharm, as well as other companies in which VEM holds a stake, is fundamentally healthy."

The rescue plan was announced two days after Adolf Merckle, head of the family, committed suicide by stepping in front of a train. Merckle, whose estimated $9.2 billion fortune made him one of the world’s richest people, was "broken" as his business empire crumbled under the growing burden of debt, his family said Tuesday.