Ingvar Kamprad, Ikea’s Swedish Billionaire Founder, Dies at 91
Ingvar Kamprad, whose boyhood business of selling pencils and seeds from his bicycle in Sweden eventually grew into the Ikea furniture chain, has died. He was 91.
“One of the greatest entrepreneurs of the 20th century, Ingvar Kamprad, has peacefully passed away at his home in Smaland, Sweden, on Jan. 27," Ikea said in an emailed statement on Sunday.
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."
Kamprad had an estimated net worth of $58.7 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, making him the world’s eighth-richest person.
The wealth was accumulated by producing furniture for the masses that was affordable and easy to transport. The Ikea flat packs revolutionized the way in which tables, chairs and other items could be stored and shipped, before being assembled by the customer.
“We are mourning the loss of our founder and dear friend Ingvar,” Jesper Brodin, chief executive officer of the Ikea Group, the largest retailer in the Ikea franchise system, 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.”
Kamprad was known for driving an old Volvo, recycling tea bags and taking home little packets of salt and pepper from restaurant visits. He was known as “Uncle Scrooge” and “The Miser” in the Swiss village of Epalinges, near Lausanne, where he moved in the 1970s before returning to Sweden a few years ago. He also avoided wearing suits and ties and traveled coach when flying.
Ikea’s corporate culture mirrors Kamprad’s celebration of frugality. Executives of the company travel on low-cost airlines and lodge in budget hotels. Its employees follow a basic pamphlet written by Kamprad in 1976, “The Testament of a Furniture Dealer,” which states that “wasting resources is a mortal sin,” and stipulates Ikea’s “duty to expand.”
Brodin, who during his career at Ikea worked for 10 years as an assistant to Kamprad, said in a phone interview on Sunday that the billionaire “started as a 17-year old with two empty pockets, but a ton of entrepreneurship. He used to tell me that he never knew it would become so big."
Kamprad’s death “will affect us all and we’ll take time to be sad and reflect on what Ingvar achieved," Brodin said.