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German billionaire commits suicide

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 19th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

They say that the world's wealthiest man would give away all his many millions for a single day of health. German billionaire Otto Beisheim was the 344th richest person in the world and the 22nd wealthiest person in Germany. Co-founder of the largest German retail group, Metro AG, Beisheim has taken his own life after being diagnosed with an incurable illness.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Beisheim opened the first Metro Market in November 1963 in Essen-Altenessen. Six years later, his group had reached the billion sales mark," the Examiner reports. Beisheim exported the concept first in Europe, then worldwide, establishing the "Cash and Carry", "Media Markt," and "Real" chains in countries from China to France.

Last year was a tough one for the group, which issued a profit warning, lost its place in the Dax index of leading German shares and received downgrades to its credit ratings.

Declining spending by shoppers in Europe worried about the euro zone debt crisis and the rise of internet retailers have also contributed to its shares losing 15 percent of their value over the past year.

Beisheim apparently committed suicide shortly after learning from doctors about his illness. "Otto Beisheim was a pioneer and a legend in the German and international retail world . with innovation, courage and ambition, he founded one of the world's leading retail firms," a statement from the Otto Beisheim group reads. "He was suffering from an incurable disease and departed this life due to the hopelessness of his health situation."

A spokeswoman for the Beisheim Group said "there were no plans to sell the billionaire's near-10 percent stake in Metro. He was the third-largest shareholder behind the Haniel and Schmidt-Ruthenbeck families, which together own 45.78 percent."

Beisheim's wife of 50 years, Inge Beisheim, had died in 1999. Since the couple had no children, Beisheim's assets will be divided between two foundations to foster cultural and business projects. Through his charitable foundation, he supported schools and set up sports clubs and play areas for children.

Beisheim's image has been clouded by his role in the Second World War. German media reports have said that he was a member of Hitler's Waffen-SS. The spokeswoman for the Beisheim Group said only that he was a low-ranking member and switched to a different division in 1942.

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