Ikea founder and billionaire Ingvar Kamprad dies at 91

Kamprad started the Swedish furniture company in 1943 when he was just 17 and sold replicas of his uncle Ernst's kitchen table.

Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad, who built a global business empire with revolutionary flat-pack furniture and was known for his contempt for taxes, died aged 91, the Swedish furnishing giant said on Sunday. 

The company said in a statement that Kamprad "passed away peacefully surrounded by his loved ones" at his home in the southern Swedish region of Smaland on Saturday "following a brief illness". 

Ingvar Kamprad was presented the Lifetime Achievment Award by Princess Victoria of Sweden at the Swedish Chamber of Commerce Centenery Celebrations on May 12, 2006 in London (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

"His legacy will be admired for many years to come and his vision – to create a better everyday life for the many people – will continue to guide and inspire us," Jesper Brodin, CEO and president of the Ikea Group, said in the statement.   

Born in 1926 to a farming family in the southern Swedish region of Smaland, Kamprad founded the company at age 17. 

An Ikea living room (Pinterest)

Despite his enormous success and wealth, Kamprad's modest spending habits bordered on the obsessive. He drove a 1993 Volvo and even bought his clothes second from a flea market to set an example.

In 1973 he fled Sweden's higher tax structure for Denmark before seeking even lower taxes in Switzerland.

Ingvar Kamprad (Getty Images)

Starting in 2010 Kamprad gradually made way at the helm of the company for his three sons, finally returning to live in Sweden in 2014.

Kamprad announced in 2013 that he would be stepping down from the board of Inter Ikea, owner of the furniture giant's concept and brand, and his youngest son became chairman. 

Ikea has more than 300 stores in 28 countries (Pinterest)

The Consortium of Investigative Journalists in 2014 cited leaked tax files from Luxembourg when it identified Ikea as one of the giant multinationals fingered for corporate tax avoidance by shuffling money to tax havens.

Kamprad founded Ikea when he was just 17 (Pinterest)

Last year, the European Commission announced that it had launched an investigation into Ikea's tax deals in the Netherlands.

The group insists that it complies fully with national and international tax regulations.

Kamprad was also known for his ties to the Swedish Nazi party during his early days. 

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

© Agence France-Presse

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