OBITUARY: Flat-pack pioneer Kamprad built Sweden's IKEA into global brand

Jan 30, 2018, 00:58
OBITUARY: Flat-pack pioneer Kamprad built Sweden's IKEA into global brand

Swedish business magnet Ingvar Kamprad, who introduced the world to flat-pack furniture through his very popular brand Ikea, died on Saturday, January 27.

Kamprad formed the company's name from his own initials and the first letters of the family farm, Elmtaryd, and the parish of Agunnaryd where it is located.

"He wanted to appear a man of the people, one of us", Stenebo wrote in a behind-the-scenes book, "The Truth About Ikea", released shortly after he left the company almost a decade ago.

It added: "Ingvar Kamprad was a great entrepreneur of the typical southern Swedish kind - hardworking and stubborn, with a lot of warmth and a playful twinkle in his eye".

The first Ikea store was opened in 1958 and it became the largest furniture shop in Sweden at the time.

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Kamprad's life story is intimately linked to the company he founded at age 17 on the family farm.

The company's big break came in 1956 with the introduction of flat-pack furniture, Reuters reported.

"People have tried to reproduce and copy that, but unsuccessfully", he said.

He was known for his devotion to frugality.

Kamprad's close friend Bertil Torekull told the Swedish daily Aftonbladet that the industrialist died from pneumonia which he contracted after a visit overseas, aggravated by "the frailty of old age".

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"All his life, Mr. Kamprad practiced thrift and diligence, and he portrayed those traits as the basis for IKEA's success". In an interview with Swedish television channel TV4, given in the year 2016 he said that it is in the nature of Småland to be thrifty.

"If you look at me now, I don't think I'm wearing anything that wasn't bought at a flea market", he said.

Although he was no longer involved in IKEA's daily operations, his principles remained deeply ingrained in the company, which sometimes operated more like a secretive cult than a business, according to Stenebo's book. A report by the Green party in European Parliament past year said Ikea avoided one billion euros ($1.2 billion) in EU taxes between 2009 to 2014.

The tycoon revealed some elements of his past in a book in 1988, admitting that he was a close friend of the Swedish fascist activist Per Engdahl, and a member of his New Swedish Movement between 1942 and 1945.

Kamprad later said that it was "a part of my life which I bitterly regret" but his "Nazi past followed [him] ... to his death", Derek Hawkins reports for the Washington Post, detailing both the charges against him as well as his - and others' - defense of what he claimed was an indiscretion of his youth.

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