If you’ve ever owned a BILLY shelf unit or a LACK table or a MALM dresser, please bow your head for a moment of silence.
IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad, who was worth $40 billion by some estimates, has died.
The 94-year-old Swedish entrepreneur was notorious for having been almost comically thrifty, an ethos that lives on in IKEA stores around the world–and one assumes, in studio apartments and starter homes across the planet.
“Ingvar Kamprad was a great entrepreneur of the typical southern Swedish kind, hardworking and stubborn, with a lot of warmth and a playful twinkle in his eye,” IKEA said in a press release.
His stubborn frugality played out in lots of attention-getting ways. Among them, Kamprad:
- bought his clothes at flea markets
- waited until he was traveling in third world countries to get a haircut, so it would be cheaper
- had planned to leave only about $300,000 of his fortune to his adopted daughter (reportedly , she said she was fine with that)
- drove a 1993 Volvo 240 (although he reportedly also had a Porsche).
- left Sweden for Switzerland in the 1970s to avoid paying his home country’s high taxes
often ate cheap meals at IKEA
It should be noted that Kamprand also claimed that he was worth far less than the $40 billion Bloomberg attributed to him, or even the $5 billion Forbes said he had–although that was apparently in the context of fighting his tax bill.
One report said he claimed to have about $118 million. But even if so, he could have afforded the occasional trip to whatever is the Swedish equivalent of Supercuts, rather than waiting to travel to Vietnam for a haircut (as he said he did).
Kamprad started IKEA in 1950, expanding a small retail operation he’d set up in his hometown of Smaland, Sweden via mail order–and adding furniture that would be shipped to customers’ homes and assembled in order to keep prices low.
“It is in the nature of Smaland to be thrifty,” Kamprad said in an interview a few years ago, celebrating his 90th birthday. “I don’t think I’m wearing anything that wasn’t bought at a flea market.”
The concept grew to 411 locations in 49 countries. Most recent additions: Morocco (2016) and Serbia (2017).
Kamprand had not had an operational role in IKEA since 1988, but had stayed on as a “senior advisor,” IKEA said.
Besides his frugality, Kamprad was often called to account for what he called “a part of my life which I bitterly regret:” his association with a Swedish fascist leader in the 1940s and 1950s. (He addressed it at length in his book, Leading by Design.)