Ingvar Kamprad

Death of a Founder: IKEA’s Ingvar Kamprad

by Marica Fick

Earlier this week Rose sent me the link to a blog post she spotted on I Want That concerning the passing of IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad at the ripe age of 91.

To be honest, I had not thought much about IKEA’s origin story in the past.  Maybe this is because the Swedish “powers that be” have yet to bring all that delicious flat-pack goodness to South Africa.

In my mind, I perceived IKEA as some figureless corporation.  Until now, I was quite unaware of the fact that they had a founder, not to mention what an interesting character that founder was.

Here are 10 interesting facts about Ingvar Kamprad:

Ingvar Kamprad
IKEA founder, Ingvar Kamprad, with chair models ÖGLA, SAMPO, IDUN and TORE | Source: Inter IKEA Group

1.  The entrepreneurial preschooler

He had a business mind from a very young age. He started selling matches at the tender age of five. By seven he was a “travelling salesman”, using his little bicycle to sell his matches to neighbours further afield. Later he would add fish, seeds, Christmas tree decorations, pencils and ball-point pens to his inventory.

2.  Schoolyard start-up capital

He started IKEA at the age of 17 with money his father gave him as an incentive for doing well in his school studies, despite being dyslexic. (See kids, it pays to do your homework – you might be one English essay away from a million dollar empire!)

3.  What an odd name?!

The name “IKEA” is an acronym for his name and childhood home – Ingvar Kamprad of Elmtaryd, Agunnaryd. I just assumed it was some Swedish word…

4.  I really like your table Uncle…

IKEA’s first product was selling replicas of his uncle Ernst’s kitchen table. A decade later he would add the flat-pack furniture that made IKEA a global multi-billion euro company.

5.  Mr Moneybags

Upon his death, Kamprad was the eighth-richest person in the world, worth an estimated $58.7 billion, according to Bloomberg.

6.  Less is more

He was a frugal man. He flew economy class, drove a 20-year old Volvo, stayed in cheap hotels, encouraged IKEA employees to use both sides of pieces of paper, shopped for clothes at flea markets, recycled tea bags and was known to pocket the salt & pepper packets at restaurants.

7.  A life in 10-minute segments

Mr Kamprad was of the opinion that we should all divide our lives “into 10-minute units, and sacrifice as few of them as possible in meaningless activity.

8.  So it was written…

He wrote two books, A Testament of a Furniture Dealer in 1976 (cool title, right?!), and the autobiographical book, Leading by Design: The IKEA Story, in 1999.

9.  Flirting with Fascism

Mr Kamprad was a close friend of the Swedish fascist activist Per Engdahl and is said to have joined Engdahl’s pro-fascist New Swedish Movement in 1942, at the age of 16. He would later call his affiliation with the organization the “greatest mistake of his life” and the “folly of youth“. Guess nobody is perfect…

10.  Bow to IKEA!

In 2005, style magazine Icon labelled Mr Kamprad as one of the leading taste-makers in the world because “if it wasn’t for Ikea, most people would have no access to affordable contemporary design…” The cornerstone of IKEA’s ideology has always been that anyone should be able to afford stylish, modern furniture.

Today, there are over 411 IKEA stores in the world – in 49 countries. While not a designer himself, as a purveyor he brought affordable, innovative, and attractive furniture to the masses. And for that Mr Kamprad, we salute you.

P.S. Did you know IKEA has its own museum?! See below…

Feature Image: Soren Andersson | TT News Agency via Paris Match

3 thoughts on “Death of a Founder: IKEA’s Ingvar Kamprad

  1. We watched a documentary about him a few years ago. He wasn’t portrayed in a good light at all. The two things that stood out for me was his fascism which appeared to be more than flirting and his poor attitude to the IKEA employees.

    • That sounds very interesting Alison, can you by any chance remember the name of the doccie? – I would love to give it a watch. I heard that he was also quite fond of the bottle and to “dry out” at least two or three times a year.

      Ja, one wonders how deeply this fascism thing was rooted in his post-youth life. I read that both Kamprad’s father and grandmother were “avowed, Mein Kampf-reading Hitler-worshippers…” Hectic!

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