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Ikea boss handed billions to sons after legal battle, claims book

Book claims thrifty furniture billionaire battled to retain control but was finally defeated

The founder of the Ikea furniture chain fought bitterly with his three sons over his fortune, with the famously thrifty Swede eventually having to hand over billions of euros, a new book due to be published next week claims. 

Ingvar Kamprad, 87, is rumoured to be so careful with money that he recycles tea bags and insists on flying economy. But the book, Ikea: Moving to the Future, claims he was forced to give up between €2.3bn and €3.5bn (£2bn and £3bn) after stepping down as chief executive of the company in the 1980s.

In excerpts of the book published in the Swedish business newspaper Dagens Industri this week, the authors allege that a row broke out between Mr Kamprad and his sons over a clause which allowed him to claim funds for intellectual property rights after he had handed the company over to a group of Netherlands-based foundations in the 1980s.

His sons Peter, Jonas and Mathias Kamprad hired an American lawyer to contest the patriarch’s right to the money, the book claims, causing him to “oscillate between being furious and destroyed”. After a lengthy battle – the excerpts did not say how long it lasted – Mr Kamprad gave in.

A spokesman for Ikea said it was “natural that books are written about Ikea” but would not comment on specific allegations in the new book, written by Lennart Dahlgren, a former Ikea executive, and researchers Stellan Björk and Karl von Schulzenheim.

Despite claims of a feud, Ikea remains very much a family business, with Mr Kamprad’s sons installed in keys posts as the octogenarian has slowly stepped back from the business. He officially retired as chief executive in 1986, but kept a tight grip on the running of Ikea while serving on the board.

He eventually retired from the board of Inter Ikea Group in June, saying the company was “taking another step in the generation shift that has been ongoing for some years”.

At the same time, Mathias Kamprad took over as chairman, with his father saying he was “well prepared” for the post. Jonas Kamprad is also on the board of one of the foundations which own Ikea, while Peter Kamprad is in charge of a fund which administers the family wealth.

Estimates of Mr Kamprad’s personal wealth, meanwhile, vary widely. In March Forbes said he was worth €2.4bn, while Bloomberg puts his fortune at €41bn. Whatever he is worth, he is renowned for not splashing it around, driving an old Volvo and flying economy class.

He has spent the past 40 years living in Switzerland to escape Sweden’s high taxes, but said this summer that he planned to return to live on a farm outside Almhult, the town in southern Sweden where he founded the company in 1943.

Mr Kamprad began by selling matches and pencils from a shed in his back garden. But it was his decision in 1956 to sell disassembled furniture which propelled Ikea to its current position as the world’s biggest retailers of furniture.