Ingvar Kamprad, Founding father of Ikea and Creator of a World Empire, Dies at 91

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It was not precisely so, as reporters discovered. His dwelling was a villa overlooking Lake Geneva, and he had an property in Sweden and vineyards in Provence. He drove a Porsche in addition to the Volvo. His cut-rate flights, inns and meals had been taken partly as an exemplar to his executives, who had been anticipated to comply with go well with, to treat employment by Ikea as a life’s dedication — and to put in writing on either side of a chunk of paper.

Ikea was certainly operated by way of a charitable belief within the Netherlands, and a fancy sequence of holding corporations, all managed by the Kamprad household to keep away from any likelihood that Ikea is perhaps taken public or damaged up. It additionally supplied tax shelters and a construction for preserving the corporate intact after Mr. Kamprad’s dying.

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An Ikea retailer in Hicksville, N.Y. Credit score G. Paul Burnett/The New York Occasions

He sought to manage his work drive, too. In 1976, he wrote a manifesto, “The Testament of a Furniture Dealer,” with biblical-style commandments itemizing simplicity as a advantage and waste as a sin. Staff had been anticipated to soak up “the Ikea spirit,” to be humble, clean-cut and courteous, not simply educated about Ikea’s merchandise however obsessed with its company ideology — ideas to work and reside by.

Mr. Kamprad was, like his designer wares, a studied Everyman. He cultivated a provincial openness: interested in every little thing, however a face misplaced within the crowd. He was skinny, bespectacled and balding, with wisps of graying hair plastered down the edges, jowls and a pointed chin. His blue denim shirts and khaki pants might need been a gardener’s, however there was arduous individuality at nighttime eyes and compressed lips.

Whereas he lived principally in seclusion, he traveled to Ikea shops all over the world, generally strolling in anonymously and questioning staff as if he had been a buyer, and prospects as if he had been a solicitous worker. He spoke at Ikea board conferences and infrequently lectured at universities. He hardly ever gave interviews, however made no secret of his alcoholism, saying he managed it by drying out thrice a yr.

To hundreds of thousands of Ikea prospects and most of the people, he was largely unknown past the approved model of his life and Ikea’s success — his “Main by Design: The Ikea Story” (1999), written with Bertil Torekull. Its themes had been sounded for many years in Ikea publicity and reiterated in profiles of Mr. Kamprad and the corporate.

Ikea had been achieved, he mentioned, by frugality: constructing shops on more cost effective land exterior cities; shopping for supplies at a reduction; minimizing gross sales workers to let prospects store with out stress; placing no finishes on unseen furnishings surfaces, and packaging objects in flat bins to be carried away by prospects for dwelling meeting (directions supplied).

In 1994, the Stockholm newspaper Expressen uncovered Mr. Kamprad’s title within the archives of Per Engdahl, a Swedish fascist who had just lately died. They confirmed Mr. Kamprad had joined Mr. Engdahl’s fascist motion in 1942, and had attended conferences, raised funds and recruited members. Even after the struggle’s finish in 1945, he remained near the chief. In a 1950 letter to Mr. Engdahl, Mr. Kamprad mentioned he was pleased with his involvement.

Mr. Kamprad responded humbly to the disclosures. In a message to his staff, he mentioned his fascist actions had been “part of my life which I bitterly remorse,” and “probably the most silly mistake of my life.” He mentioned he had been influenced by his German grandmother, who fled the Sudetenland earlier than World Warfare II, and that he had been drawn to Mr. Engdahl’s imaginative and prescient of “a non-Communist, socialist Europe.”

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Mr. Kamprad in 2012. Credit score Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Photographs

For Swedes, the revelations reawakened disquieting reminiscences of World Warfare II. Whereas Sweden was formally impartial, German troops had traveled throughout the nation from occupied Norway, and an unknown variety of Swedes had been Nazi sympathizers. After the disclosures, Jewish teams known as for a boycott of Ikea, however its enterprise suffered little, if in any respect, and Mr. Kamprad quickly returned to themes of frugality.

“Effectively, I’m often called a really thrifty individual, and the shops are meant for individuals like me,” he told The New York Times in 1997 when requested about his contributions to the tradition of Ikea. “I don’t fly first-class on the airplanes, and the shops’ executives don’t both.”

Ingvar Feodor Kamprad was born in Pjatteryd, Sweden, on March 30, 1926. He attended native faculties and studied enterprise in Goteborg. He based Ikea in 1943, utilizing cash his father gave him for chores to register his mail-order enterprise.

In 1950, he married Kerstin Wadling. That they had a daughter, Annika, and divorced in 1960. In 1963, he married Margaretha Sennert. That they had three sons, Peter, Jonas and Mathias. His second spouse died in 2011. He’s survived by his daughter and sons, The Related Press reported from Stockholm.

In 1953, he opened a showroom in Almhult; in 1958, it grew to become the primary Ikea retailer. Within the 1960s, Ikeas opened in Stockholm, elsewhere in Sweden, in addition to Denmark and Norway. Alarmed by the corporate’s rising gross sales, its rivals organized a boycott by Ikea’s suppliers, nevertheless it backfired: Mr. Kamprad went to Poland for supplies and manufacturing, which lower prices additional.

Within the 1970s, Ikeas opened in Switzerland and Canada. In 1985, the primary Ikea in the USA opened close to Philadelphia. Within the 1990s, Ikea grew to become widespread throughout Japanese Europe, and by 2000, there have been Ikeas in Russia and China. The corporate owned the overwhelming majority of its shops, although about 10 p.c had been franchise operations.

In 1976, Mr. Kamprad moved to Switzerland. In 1982, he transferred management to the Dutch basis, and in 2013 he stepped down from the board of Inter Ikea Group, a key firm inside the enterprise, and named his youngest son, Mathias, as its chairman. His different two sons additionally held key positions. Mr. Kamprad introduced his retirement in 1986, however continued touring to his shops and making main choices.

“I see my process as serving nearly all of individuals,” he told Forbes in 2000. “The query is, how do you discover out what they need, how greatest to serve them? My reply is to remain near peculiar individuals, as a result of at coronary heart I’m one among them.”

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