The New York Times reports that the founder of the furniture retail chain IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad, has passed away at his home in Smaland, Sweden, at the age of 91. Kamprad suffered from a short illness.
Kamprad was born in Pjatteryd, Sweden, on March 30, 1926. In 1950, he married Kerstin Wadling, with whom he had a daughter, Annika. The couple divorced in 1960, after which Kamprad married Margaretha Sennert in 1963, with whom he has three sons named Peter, Jonas, and Mathias. His second wife died in 2011.
Kamprad, whilst being an inspiration to many, generated controversy when, in 1994, the Stockholm newspaper Expressen uncovered his name in the archives of the Swedish fascist Per Engdahl. The records revealed by Expressen showed that Kamprad joined Engdahl’s fascist movement in 1942. The pair remained close after the end of World War Two in 1945. In a letter to Engdahl written in 1950, Kamprad said he was proud of his involvement.
Kamprad responded to the disclosures in a message to his employees, wherein he said that his fascist activities were a part of his life which he bitterly regretted. He proceeded to label it the most stupid mistake of his life.
Even though Jewish groups called for a boycott of IKEA after the disclosures surfaced, the company suffered little.
Kamprad laid the blame for his stint of fascism on the influence of his German grandmother, who he said was drawn to Engdahl’s version of a non-communist, socialist Europe.
IKEA confirmed his death in a statement published on their website. Torbjörn Lööf, CEO and President of the Inter IKEA group, said that they will remember Kamprad’s dedication and commitment to always side with many people.
Jesper Brodin, CEO and President of the IKEA Group, said that Kamprad’s legacy will be admired for many years to come.
Kamprad did not have an operational role within IKEA since 1988 but nevertheless continued to contribute to his business in the role of senior adviser.
Reuters reports that Kamprad started IKEA in 1943 at the tender age of 17. IKEA gained traction in 1957 when it pioneered the industry of flat-pack furniture. His IKEA empire now has over 400 stores globally and served roughly one billion customers during 2017.
According to the BBC, furniture designer Jeff Banks credited Kamprad with having radically changed the way people made and designed products for their homes.
Banks also lauded IKEA for making use of recycled products in the manufacturing of their products.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom credited Kamprad with having put Sweden on the map.
The Financial Times quoted former director of the Design Museum in London, Alice Rawsthorn, as saying that Kamprad democratized interior design by taking the Scandinavian modern design aesthetic and commercializing it.
IKEA generates over 38 billion euros in sales per year and employs more than 194 000 co-workers in 49 countries. IKEA has become known for its low prices as well as undertaking the first international mass production of furniture for home assembly. Home assembly eliminates the cost of shipping between factories and retail outlets and has also led to a significant reduction in transport damage.
IKEA also ensure that their prices stay as low as possible by coming up with a price before actually making the product in question.
Kamprad himself lived a life of middle-class humility. He drove an old Volvo and always traveled economy class. He bought his own groceries and admitted to shopping in the late afternoon when prices were reduced.
In order to keep IKEA out of the hands of competitors and banks, Kamprad insisted that IKEA remain off the stock market. He also divided IKEA into two parts: the retailer, IKEA Group, and the owner of the brand, Inter IKEA. Both IKEA Group and Inter IKEA are owned by foundations and not Kamprad himself or his family.
IKEA’s blue and yellow logo is drawn from the Swedish flag, according to The Washington Post. Before IKEA expanded into the furniture industry, the company initially sold pens, wallets, picture frames, nylon stockings, table runners, watches, as well as jewelry.
The furniture retailer has throughout the decades become a leading cultural ambassador for Sweden, introducing customers from all around the world to bright colors and sleek forms that characterize Scandinavian design.