In Depth

Ingvar Kamprad, billionaire founder of Ikea, dies at 91

Who was the thrifty Swede who ran global furniture chain for 70 years?

The founder of Swedish furniture chain Ikea has died at the age of 91. Ingvar Kamprad began the flatpack firm on his parent’s farm in 1943 and only stepped down from the board in 2013, 70 years later.

Sweden’s foreign minister Margot Wallstrom said Kamprad had “put Sweden on the world map”, building a global chain with retail sales of £30bn in 2016, the BBC reports.

How did Kamprad start out?

The Swede was just 17 when he put his pocket money towards starting the company on his parents’ farm in 1943. He named it with his initials (IK), plus the first letters of two villages where he grew up.

Where did he get the idea for flatpack?

Kamprad supposedly came up with the idea of self-assembly furniture in 1956 after watching one of his employees take the legs off a chair – or a table in some accounts – so it would fit into a customer’s car.

How did he spend his wealth?

Kamprad died a billionaire but was famously thrifty. He drove a modest Volvo and in 2016 told Swedish TV channel TV4: “If you look at me now, I don't think I'm wearing anything that wasn't bought at a flea market.”

Was he really a Nazi sympathiser?

Yes – but he expressed regret. Kamprad was a close friend of the Swedish fascist leader Per Engdahl and a member of his New Swedish Movement. In 2011, Swedish author Elisabeth Asbrink said Kamprad’s involvement had been deep, claiming he was an active recruiter for a Swedish Nazi group when he was 17 and had stayed close to Nazi sympathisers long after the end of the war.

What did Kamprad say about his fascist past?

Kamprad sent a note to Ikea’s 25,000 employees in 1994, the Jewish News of Northern California reported, saying his fascist activities were “a part of my life which I bitterly regret” and he had cut off contact with Engdahl in the 1950s. In 2001, Ikea opened its first store in Israel.

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