IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad dies aged 91

The billionaire founded the Swedish flat-pack furniture company in 1943, aged 17

(FILES) This file photo taken on December 3, 2018 shows Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad posing prior the inauguration of the Margaretha Kamprad Chair of Environmental Science and Limnology at the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology of Lausanne (EPFL) in Lausanne. 
Ingvar Kamprad, the enigmatic founder of Swedish furniture giant IKEA, died aged 91 on Sunday, the company said. / AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI
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Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA who turned the flat-pack furniture firm into a billion-dollar business, has died at the age of 91, the Swedish company said.

Mr Kamprad died on Saturday surrounded by loved ones at his home in Smaland, an agricultural region in southern Sweden, after a short illness.

The businessman, who had a modest upbringing on a small farm, founded the company in 1943 aged 17. The name IKEA comes from the acronym for Ingvar Kamprad, Elmtaryd and Agunnaryd (the name of his farm and municipality of origin).

However, it wasn’t until 1956 when the company began selling flat-pack furniture that IKEA found its niche in the market and eventually became the world’s largest furniture retailer.

Today IKEA has 403 stores across every continent and makes annual sales of 38 billion euros (Dh173.4bn).

Mr Kamprad got the idea for selling flat-pack furniture after seeing an employee take the legs off a table to save space. He realised saving space would also save money.

"Ingvar Kamprad was a unique entrepreneur who has meant a lot for Swedish business and who has made home furnishing available for many people, not just the few," Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told TT news agency upon hearing the news of the industrialist’s death.


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While Torbjörn Lööf, chief executive and president of Inter Ikea Group, the furniture giant’s parent company, said: “We are deeply saddened by Ingvar’s passing. We will remember his dedication and commitment to always side with the many people. To never give up, always try to become better and lead by example.”

One of the richest men in the world with an estimated wealth of 610 billion Swedish kronor (Dh285bn), Mr Kamprad stepped down from the helm of the company in 2010 to make way for his three sons and eventually left the board of Inter Ikea in 2013 when his youngest son became chairman.

Known for being thrifty despite his enormous fortune, the entrepreneur wore second hand clothes, used a supermarket loyalty card and drove an old Volvo in his later years.

"If you look at me, I think I do not wear anything that was not bought at a flea market, I want to show a good example," he told Swedish broadcaster TV4 in 2016.

Mr Kamprad also espoused the egalitarian beliefs of IKEA. He told a Swedish newspaper in 2008 that he belonged to the people on the shop floor.

However, his life was not without controversy.

Mr Kamprad was criticised for his links to Nazi groups during the Second World War. Sweden, which remained neutral during the war, had a Nazi organisation, which Mr Kamprad attended meetings of from 1945 to 1948.

He later asked for forgiveness for his “stupidity” in attending the meetings in a 1999 book, saying that it was the “biggest mistake” of his life.

Mr Kamprad moved to Denmark in 1973 in order to avoid Sweden’s higher tax structure and later to Switzerland to pay even less tax. He returned to Sweden in 2014.