GENEVA -- German-born photographer Gunter Sachs, best known for his playboy lifestyle and brief marriage to French actress Brigitte Bardot, has committed suicide. He was 78.
In a statement released Sunday by his family at his request, Sachs said he chose to end his life after concluding that he was suffering from an incurable degenerative disease affecting his memory and ability to communicate.
"I have always stood up to big challenges," the statement said. It provided no details on the timing or circumstances of his death, but German weekly Focus reported that Sachs shot himself Saturday at his home in the exclusive Swiss Alpine resort of Gstaad.
Sachs was born into a wealthy industrialist family in 1932, and used his inheritance and business acumen to fund a glamorous lifestyle that fascinated many in postwar Germany of the 1960s and '70s.
German tabloids reported extensively on his affairs with celebrities and friendships with artists such as Andy Warhol.
Sachs also made a name for himself as a photographer, documentary filmmaker and art collector. Swiss business magazine Bilanz estimated that his fortune stood between $340 million and $455 million.
Sachs is survived by Bardot, to whom he was married from 1966 to 1969, his third wife Mirja Larsson and their sons Christian and Alexander, and son Rolf from his first marriage.
A funeral will take place in the presence of his close family.