Ikea founder dead: Ingvar Kamprad dies aged 91

Business magnate 'one of the greatest entrepreneurs of the 20th century', says company

Harriet Agerholm
Sunday 28 January 2018 11:46
Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad has died aged 91

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

Mr Kamprad died peacefully at his home in Smaland, southern Sweden, Ikea said in a statement.

The company described him as “one of the greatest entrepreneurs of the 20th century”.

“He will be much missed and warmly remembered by his family and Ikea staff all around the world,” it added.

Mr Kamprad’s work ethic and down-to-earth style remain intrinsic to the company’s brand.

Yet his missteps in life, including early flirtations with Nazism, never tainted public perceptions of the brand.

Born 30 March 1926, Mr Kamprad started selling matchboxes to neighbours from his bicycle as a child. He found that he could buy them in bulk cheaply from Stockholm, and sell them at a low price, but still make a good profit.

He began Ikea when he was 17-years-old, expanding his catalogue to watches, Christmas decorations and pens and pencils, which he sold by mail order from his garden shed.

The name for the company came from his initials and the first letters of the farm on which he grew up, Elmtaryd, and the parish of Agunnaryd, where it is situated.

In 1950, Mr Kamprad started selling furniture made by local manufacturers in the forests close to his home.

But the company only became popular in 1956, when it pioneered flat-pack furniture, which is lauded for helping democratise good, modern home design.

The business magnate got the idea while watching an employee taking legs off a table to fit it into a customer’s car.

Ikea’s business model is based on huge production runs of identical stock, which allows it to export Scandinavian style at an affordable price.

In 1994, Swedish newspaper Expressen reported that Mr Kamprad had contacts with Swedish fascist leader Per Engdahl in the 1940s and 1950s.

In a letter to employees, Mr Kamprad admitted that he once had sympathies for the far-right leader and called it “a part of my life which I bitterly regret”.

In a 1998 book, he gave more details about his youthful “delusions”, saying he had been influenced as child by his German grandmother’s strong support for Hitler. His paternal grandparents emigrated to Sweden in the 1890s.

Mr Kamprad eventually became one of Europe’s richest men and he lived for several decades in Switzerland, where he moved in the 1970s to avoid Sweden’s high tax rate.

But he moved back to Sweden in 2013 after the death of his wife, Margareta. The same year, he also stepped down from the board of a key company within the Ikea group that owns the brand and directs strategy. His youngest son took over as chairman.

The Kamprad family still controls the complex corporate structure that forms the Ikea chain.

Agencies contributed to this report

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