The Real Deal New York

Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad dies at 91

January 28, 2018 11:00AM

Ingvar Kamprad, left in 2010; Ikea store in Regensburg, Germany, right. (Credit left to right: Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications of Sweden/Sandra Baqirjazi; High Contrast/Wikimedia Commons)

One of the richest men in the world and creator of a company whose furniture sits in the homes and offices of millions worldwide died yesterday in Smaland, Sweden.

At 17, Ingvar Kamprad founded Ikea as a mail-order business in 1943 with a basic idea: to sell low-cost minimalist furniture. Over about seven decades, he developed the idea into an empire of 350 stores, with $47.6 billion in sales and a personal net worth of $58.7 billion, making him the eighth richest person in the world, according to the New York Times.

The enduring concept of Ikea’s business — assemble furniture yourself, wander independently through self-service stores located on cheap land outside of major cities and a corporate culture of frugality is largely attributed to its founder’s ethos and behavior, though Kamprad’s life was more complicated than that simple picture he exuded publicly.

As the Times reports, Kamprad’s alcoholism, involvement in Sweden’s fascist movement and luxurious estates in Switzerland, France and Sweden give a glimpse of the man behind the cultivated image.

Though Kamprad officially retired in 1986, he continued leading the company in key decisions and visiting various stores. It was only in 2013 that he officially placed Ikea under the leadership of his son, Mathias Kamprad, with his other two sons occupying significant roles in the company. All three have since transitioned out of operational roles. [NYT]Erin Hudson