Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad dies at 91

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 January, 2018, 7:49pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 January, 2018, 11:19pm

The founder of Sweden’s Ikea furniture chain, Ingvar Kamprad, has died at the age of 91.

“The founder of Ikea and Ikano, and one of the greatest entrepreneurs of the 20th century, Ingvar Kamprad, has peacefully passed away, at his home in Småland, Sweden, on the 27th of January,” the company said in a statement.

“His legacy will be admired for many years to come and his vision - to create a better everyday life for the many people - will continue to guide and inspire us,” said Jesper Brodin, CEO and president of the Ikea Group.

Born in 1926 to a farming family in the southern Swedish region of Smaland, Kamprad founded the company at age 17 and built it into one of the world’s biggest retailers.

Ikea has 412 stores across 49 countries. The name was composed from his own initials and those of the places in the Swedish countryside where he grew up.

One of the world’s richest people, he had not been involved in a managerial role at Ikea since 1988 but had been serving as an adviser.

The frugal billionaire had a reputation for penny pinching, which he claims helped Ikea to become one of the world’s top brand names, and wore second-hand clothes bought at flea markets.

“It’s in the nature of Småland to be thrifty,” he said in documentary released in 2016, referring to Sweden’s southern agricultural region where he was born.

Kamprad announced in 2013 that he would be stepping down from the board of Inter Ikea, owner of the furniture giant’s concept and brand, and his youngest son became chairman.

He was married twice. In 1973 he moved to Denmark before trying to lower his tax bills by moving to Switzerland. He returned to live in Sweden in 2014.

The Consortium of Investigative Journalists in 2014 cited leaked tax files from Luxembourg when it identified Ikea as one of the giant multinationals fingered for corporate tax avoidance by shuffling money to tax havens.

Last year, the European Commission announced that it had launched an investigation into Ikea’s tax deals in the Netherlands.

The group insists that it complies fully with national and international tax regulations.

Kamprad was also known for his ties to the Swedish Nazi party during his early days.

Sweden was neutral in the second world war and its Nazi party remained active after 1945. The Ikea founder said he stopped attending its meetings in 1948.

Agence France-Presse, The Guardian