• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3
The Local Guide
Happy Birthday! Sweden's Ikea founder turns ninety
Ingvar Kamprad hugging an employee in 2006. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/TT

Happy Birthday! Sweden's Ikea founder turns ninety

AFP/The Local · 30 Mar 2016, 09:54

Published: 30 Mar 2016 09:54 GMT+02:00

1. He started young

Born in 1926 to a farmer in Småland -- a poor region in southern Sweden known for its entrepreneurial spirit -- Kamprad's ascent to wealth began at the tender age of 17.

Backed with modest financial support from his father, Kamprad began selling pens, picture frames, typewriters and other goods, delivering orders on his bicycle. His early success arose from squeezing his prices to undercut more established competitors.

He christened the fledgling business Ikea, stringing together his initials and those of the Elmtaryd farm where he grew up in the town of Agunnaryd.


Cottages in Småland where Kamprad grew up. Photo: Tony Töreklint/Image Bank Sweden

2. His famous flatpack furniture idea came from a colleague

In 1947 the young Kamprad started selling furniture made by local artisans, and four years later began publishing the first of his mail order catalogues -- now printed in 200 million copies and 33 languages annually.

Ikea's revolutionary self-assembly model -- which would cut transport and storage costs -- was conceived in 1956 after an employee suggested table legs be removed during freight so the package would fit into a car.

Two years later Kamprad opened Ikea's first store in Älmhult, south of his hometown. From 1970 on, Ikea conquered major markets in Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East, thriving on the spending power of the emerging middle class in countries like post-Cold War Russia.


Ingvar Kamprad and some flat pack chairs in 2002. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

3. He hates high taxes

An admirer of the humble classes who bent over backwards to avoid paying taxes, Kamprad has been described as an obsessive penny-pincher despite being one of the world's richest people.

In 1973 he fled Sweden's higher tax structure for Denmark, before seeking even lower taxes in Switzerland. Ever frugal, Kamprad reportedly drove an ageing Volvo, and regularly used his supermarket loyalty card.

Reflecting Kamprad's dislike of taxes, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in 2014 cited leaked tax files from Luxembourg identifying Ikea as one of the giant multinationals fingered for corporate tax avoidance by shuffling money from high taxation countries to tax havens, minimising his company's bill.

At a time when the tax arrangements of multinational behemoths such as Amazon and Google are under the microscope, a report before the European Parliament accuses Ikea of avoiding more than a billion euros (dollars) in taxes.

Ikea insists it complies fully with national and international tax regulations.


Ingvar Kamprad sitting on an Ikea sofa in 1989. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/TT

4. Many of his clothes are second hand

In a recent Swedish documentary, Kamprad admitted that he still loves shopping at flea markets despite his fortune.

“I don't think I'm wearing anything that wasn't bought at a flea market. It means that I want to set a good example,” he told Swedish channel TV4.

“It's in the nature of Småland to be thrifty,” he said, referring to the agricultural region where he comes from.

In 2008, he told newspaper Sydsvenskan that a 22-euro bill in the Netherlands had broken his barbering budget.

“Normally, I try to get my hair cut when I'm in a developing country. Last time it was in Vietnam,” he explained at the time.


Is this a second hand hat? Photo: Thord Nilsson/TT

5. There's Nazism in his past 

Another shadow is cast over the Ikea founder by his early days in the Swedish Nazi party.

Story continues below…

Sweden was neutral in World War Two, and its Nazi party remained active after 1945, although the Ikea founder has said he stopped attending its meetings in 1948.


File photo of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Credit: TT

6. But Swedes still love him

From 2010 onward Kamprad progressively made way at the helm of the family company for his three sons, finally returning to live in Sweden in 2014.

He remains an icon in his home country and was recently voted Sweden's greatest entrepreneur by the readers of newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

"I saw the wretched farm workers who weren't allowed to eat inside but had to eat in the stable," Kamprad said upon receiving the prize.

"I learned one thing: if I were to succeed with my little ideas and become a businessman, I had to never abandon the poor."


Kamprad picking up his prize in 2014. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/TT/

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Today's headlines
Swedish police backtrack on 'gunfight' claims
The scene of the shooting on June 22nd. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Police have retracted a claim that a suspected gunman had fired shots at a patrol unit before officers shot him dead.

Crayfish poachers send Swedes' blood boiling
Has anyone seen this crayfish? Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Oh no, not just before crayfish season!

Police hunt suspected gunman, 22, in Malmö
Rosengård Centrum. Photo: Simon Paulin/SvD/TT

Malmö police are looking for a 22-year-old suspect in connection with a shooting at a shopping centre in Rosengård.

Really old stinky cheese found on royal Swedish shipwreck
A diamond ring, the stinky cheese and gold coins. Photo: Lars Einarsson/Kalmar County Museum

Swedish scientists have discovered what is believed to be 340-year-old cheese on board a 17th century shipwreck.

Man charged with groping girls at kids' football cup
The accused in court. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

A 36-year-old sports manager whose team was sent home from Sweden after he was accused of groping three teenage girls at an international children's football tournament now faces trial.

Concern over barrage of fake Russian news in Sweden
The Russian propaganda site Sputnik News

Sweden is being subjected to constant disinformation campaigns by Russia and Isis, according to authorities.

'Let refugees go to uni while they wait': demand
A student at Stockholm University. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Asylum seekers in Sweden should be allowed to start university studies while they are waiting for decisions on their cases, it has been proposed.

The Local List
Ten Swedish phrases you only hear in summer
Let's work on that tan. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad/TT

Summer always leaves foreigners baffled by Swedes' unique seasonal habits. Here's The Local's guide to navigating small talk when the sun comes out.

So Sweden has high taxes? Not as high as you might think
A taxpayer hands in their tax declaration. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

So you think Swedes pay a lot in tax? Others pay much more, according to a new study.

Man injured in shooting at Malmö shopping mall
Rosengård Centrum in Malmö. Photo: Björn Lindgren/TT

Police cordoned off an area around a shopping centre in Malmö after a man was shot on Tuesday afternoon.

Sponsored Article
What can newcomers learn about Sweden at Almedalen?
Politics
Why Sweden's high taxes are not as high as you think
Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
National
What's haggis in a condom doing on Swedish children's TV?
National
Meet the northern Swede who is the world's best mosquito killer
Blog updates

26 July

A summer of change; a summer of beauty (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"You would have had to try hard to miss the political upheavals in the UK after…" READ »

 

22 July

After the horror, carry on regardless (Globally Local) »

"This time last week, we were just digesting the horror of the Nice killings, in which…" READ »

 
 
 
National
Sweden's Hollywood star Alicia Vikander puts her pen in the bottle
Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: Where Swedes go to work (and play)
Gallery
People-watching: July 22nd-24th
The Local Voices
The Jewish Syrian who dreams of rebuilding his country
National
Watch this Swedish weather host leave his fly open... on live TV
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
The Local Voices
'I fled war in Syria. I never expected to be beaten in Sweden'
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
WATCH: Asylum seeker brutally beaten by Swedish bus driver
Technology
Why everyone is talking about Sweden's GTA pride parade
Sponsored Article
Five easy ways to travel more often
National
EU hits truck cartel with record price fixing fine
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Society
OPINION: Why Sweden is the most extreme country in the world
The Local Voices
'There is equality in accommodation in Sweden: Everyone is suffering'
Sponsored Article
'Sweden's Lauryn Hill' touches the country's musical soul
Gallery
Property of the week: Gräsö, Östhammar
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Gallery
People-watching: July 15th-17th
National
How to make sure you're not caught out by Sweden's old bank notes
Sponsored Article
Local guide: the best of Berlin
Business & Money
Why Sweden has been named the most innovative country in Europe
Sponsored Article
Why you need a EuroBonus American Express Card
National
Terror attack: what should you do?
National
French expat on the moment he was assaulted by a Stockholm bouncer
Technology
Gunman? Nah, smartphone Swede
The Local Voices
'If the war in Syria ended today, would you go back?'
The Local Voices
‘I feel like I’m living in a grave!’
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's Princess Victoria celebrates 39th birthday
Gallery
People-watching: July 13th
National
Swedes discover surprise mountain
Politics
What Sweden's home secretary thinks of Britain's new PM
Gallery
Property of the week: Smedjebacken, Dalarna
The Local Voices
'Even xenophobic Swedes can be polite’
Politics
WATCH: A very Swedish take on Brexit...
The Local Voices
'The best time to be smuggled to Europe is August 20th, 2015'
The Local Voices
Swedes: Stop obsessing over your material life and start talking to strangers
3,335
jobs available