Furniture for all: IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad dies at 91

Founder of Swedish furniture firm Ikea Ingvar Kamprad dead aged 91

Billionaire IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad has died aged 91, the Swedish company said on Sunday, with the furniture empire he launched more than half a century ago familiar around the globe.

Founded in 1943 when Kamprad was 17, Ikea sold picture frames, nylon stockings, udder balm and other small-town necessities before turning to low-cost furniture and home furnishings. The founder of Ikea, as well as a bank for its customers, Ikano, "was "surrounded by his loved ones", and died "following a short illness".

Born in 1926 to a farming family in Smaland, Kamprad, whose 2017 fortune was estimated at €37.3 billion (1.45 trillion baht) according to the Swiss economic magazine 1, founded the company at the age of 17. Whether it's easy to assemble is another matter entirely, and following Krampad's death, several people on Twitter made the same light-hearted joke poking fun at the difficulty of building an IKEA piece. Kamprad disavowed his participation with the groups, describing it in a letter to Ikea employees as a youthful mistake and "a part of my life which I bitterly regret".

"People have tried to reproduce and copy that, but unsuccessfully", he said. "He really left an indelible imprint on retail and on consumers' lives".

Around that time, Kamprad's management style also came under criticism.

"Now I have told all I can", he said at a book release ceremony at an IKEA store in suburban Stockholm. But Kamprad's relationship with his homeland was sometimes complicated.

In the 1970s he moved to Switzerland to avoid paying Swedish taxes, which were the highest in the world, and only moved back in 2011. He chose to return home only after his second wife Margaretha died in 2011. They had two cars, a 2008 Skoda and a 1993 Volvo 240.

Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf said Sunday in an emailed statement to news agency TT that Kamprad was "a true entrepreneur" who brought the Scandinavian country "out to the world" while remaining "a down-to-earth person with a great commitment". But the heady valuations assumed his assets were Ikea's, and in the last several decades the company has restructured so that its assets are owned by a foundation created by Kamprad. Records from his estate showed he donated more than $20 million to philanthropic causes in 2012 alone.

Famously frugal - reusing teabags and flying economy class - Mr Kamprad's most robust design is not the Kilppan sofa or the Billy bookshelf, but the Ikea empire itself.

"There was an unwritten law for Ikea's upper management - loyalty to Ingvar until death", Stenebo wrote.

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