Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad dies at age of 91

Posted January 30, 2018

The Swedish founder of the Ikea furniture chain, Ingvar Kamprad, has died at the age of 91, the company has announced.

The name Ikea is derived from Ingvar Kamprad, Elmtaryd (the farm where he grew up), and Agunnaryd (his hometown in Småland). The Ikea group now has 403 stores across every continent, employs 1,90,000 people worldwide and generates annual sales of 38 billion euros ($47 billion). Ingvar Kamprad was a great entrepreneur of the typical southern Swedish kind - hardworking and stubborn, with a lot of warmth and a playful twinkle in his eye.

The idea came to him as he watched an employee taking the legs off a table to fit it into a customer's auto and realised that saving space meant saving money.

The first Ikea store was opened in 1958 and it became the largest furniture shop in Sweden at the time.

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"He worked until the very end of his life, staying true to his own motto that most things remain to be done", it added.

He founded IKEA in 1943 when he was just 17, but didn't hit gold until 1956, when the company introduced flat-pack furniture.

"People have tried to reproduce and copy that, but unsuccessfully", he said.

Kamprad was known to lead a frugal life and drive a simple Volvo vehicle well into his later years.

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The book also contained details about his struggles with alcohol and his successes and failures in business.

"By his final year in middle school, he had expanded into Christmas ornaments, fish, lingonberries, and garden seeds", writes Gwynn Guilford for Quartz in a piece that has eight additional "intriguing facts" about the frugal mogul, including the fact that he had been involved with Swedish fascist movement in the 1940s and '50s. "It's in the nature of Småland to be thrifty", he had said in a 2016 documentary.

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven praised Kamprad as an inspirational figure whose influence had reached far beyond his native land.

"If you look at me now, I don't think I'm wearing anything that wasn't bought at a flea market", he said.

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While Ikea has remained privately-owned under a Dutch trust operated by the Kamprad family, its complex business structure has attracted controversy and the European Commission has launched an investigation into its tax arrangements. The Consortium of Investigative Journalists identified IKEA in 2014 as one of the giant multinationals that moved money to tax havens to avoid taxes. But Kamprad said he stopped attending its meetings in 1948, later attributing the period to the "folly of youth", calling it "the greatest mistake of my life".