Business World

Monday 19 March 2018

Ikea founder and flat-pack furniture pioneer dies at 91

Ingvar Kamprad identified the flat-pack market in 1956 Photo: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo
Ingvar Kamprad identified the flat-pack market in 1956 Photo: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

Simon Johnson

Billionaire Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad, who turned a business he launched as a teenager into one of the world's best-known furniture brands, has died at the age of 91.

Mr Kamprad started Ikea in 1943 when he was just 17, but his big break came in 1956, when the company pioneered flat-pack furniture.

He got the idea when he watched an employee taking the legs off a table to fit it into a customer's car and realised that it could be developed to save money on transport, storage and sales space.

The business now has around 400 stores, most of them cavernous warehouses in out-of-town malls and roughly a billion people visited them last year.

"One of the greatest entrepreneurs of the 20th century, Ingvar Kamprad, has peacefully passed away, at his home in Smaland, Sweden," the company said.

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven praised Mr Kamprad as an inspirational figure whose influence had reached far beyond his native land.

"Ingvar Kamprad was a unique entrepreneur who had a big impact on Swedish business and who made home design a possibility for the many not just the few," he said.

Born on March 30, 1926, in southern Sweden, Mr Kamprad started off selling matches to neighbours at the age of five and soon grew his inventory to include seeds, Christmas tree decorations, pencils and ball-point pens.

Despite his wealth, Mr Kamprad prided himself on being frugal, driving an old car and encouraging staff to write on both sides of a sheet of paper to avoid waste.

However, he was a controversial figure, partly due to his political views during the 1940s.

Mr Kamprad was forced to apologise for his time as a member of the New Swedish Movement, a nationalist, far-right group that supported fascist parties around Europe.

His decision to live abroad, mainly in Switzerland, to avoid Sweden's high income tax was also widely criticised.


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