Ingvar Kamprad: The frugal billionaire who founded Ikea dies at age 91

The founder of IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad, has died, aged 91

The man who founded IKEA, the world's biggest furniture retailer, has died.

The Ikea founder passed away at his home in the southern Swedish region of Smaland, according to the Agence France-Presse and Ikea, in a statement, said: "Kamprad passed away peacefully surrounded by his loved ones following a brief illness".

Kamprad was born there in 1926.

While IKEA's furniture is known for its "quintessentially Swedish" designs, Kamprad moved the company's production unit to Communist-era Poland in 1961 to take advantage of the country's cheap labour costs.

After deciding to focus on the home furniture business, Kamprad built the company into a global juggernaut that kept to his philosophy of keeping prices low by requiring customers to assemble the easily constructed pieces on their own.

However, his business did not hit gold until 1956, when he pioneered flat-pack furniture.

"Now I have told all I can", he said at a book release ceremony at an IKEA store in suburban Stockholm.

In 1947, the young Kamprad started selling furniture made by local artisans, and four years later he began putting out the first of his mail order catalogues - which now have an annual print run of 200 million copies in 33 languages. He registered his mail-order business in household goods, calling it IKEA, formed of his initials and those of his farm, Elmtaryd, and village, Agunnaryd.

A Swedish flag flies at half mast outside an Ikea store in Stockholm.

The food portion of Ikea's empire, which includes in-store restaurants and grocery stores, generated €1.8 billion in sales past year.

Ingvar Kamprad posing for a photo with an Ikea staffer.

But Kamprad lived modestly, buying his clothes at thrift shops, driving an ageing Volvo, and bringing a lunch box to work.

His decision to live overseas, mainly in Switzerland, to avoid Sweden's high income taxes was also widely criticised.

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.

"We have Småland in the blood, and we know what a krona is - even though it is not as much as it was when we bought candy and went to elementary school", he said, referring to the Swedish currency. She wrote that he was an active recruiter for a Swedish Nazi group, and stayed close to sympathisers well after World War Two.

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