STOCKHOLM: Billionaire IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad, who turned a business he launched as a teenager into one of the world’s best known furniture brands, died at the age of 91, the Swedish company said yesterday.
IKEA’s simple but sturdy designs and self-assembly products are now familiar in homes around the globe and the retailer is aiming to generate 50 billion euros ($62bn) in annual revenues by 2020.
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, many of them cavernous warehouses in out-of-town malls and roughly 1bn 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, on January 27,” the company said.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven praised 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,” Lofven said.
Born on March 30, 1926, in southern Sweden, Kamprad started off selling matches to neighbours at the age of five and soon diversified his inventory to include seeds, Christmas tree decorations, pencils and ball-point pens.
Despite his wealth, 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.