Swedish business magnate Ingvar Kamprad had been at the helm of IKEA, one of the world’s largest furniture stores and most beloved brands, for more than 70 years when his death was announced Sunday.
With a net worth of $48.1 billion at its height, he was one of the world’s richest self-made billionaires.
If you ask Malcolm Gladwell, whose books have been read by millions of people, Kamprad succeeded thanks to an often-unpopular personality trait: disagreeableness, and not caring if people thought he was crazy.
From humble beginnings selling holiday tchotchkes to his neighbours as a child, here’s how Kamprad started a privately held $11.8 billion furniture revolution and became a billionaire.
Kamprad was born in the south of Sweden in 1926 and by the age of five began selling matches for profit. At 10, he rode his bike around the neighbourhood to sell Christmas decorations, fish, and pencils.
When Kamprad was 17, his dad gave him a cash reward for making good grades in school despite his dyslexia. He used the money to found IKEA in 1943. Kamprad didn't introduce furniture until five years in; he'd started by selling small household items, like picture frames.
The name IKEA is an acronym for the initials of his first and last names, plus the initials for the name of the family farm where he was born (Elmtaryd) and the nearest village (Agunnaryd).
In 1956, Kamprad revolutionised the furniture market by introducing 'flatpacking,' the method now synonymous with IKEA that cuts costs by letting consumers purchase their furniture in pieces and assemble it themselves.
According to best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell, Kamprad is a rare breed -- he possesses a combination of conscientiousness, openness, and disagreeableness. These personality traits are what made him a fearless innovator in the beginning of his career.
In that vein, Kamprad unpopularly moved IKEA headquarters from Sweden to Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1973 to avoid unfavorable business taxes for his growing company. He also moved himself and his family to Switzerland to protest Sweden's increasing taxes. But the corporation is now based in the Netherlands, and Kamprad himself has since returned to Sweden.
Kamprad runs a complex corporate structure that includes a charitable arm and a retail and franchise arm. The IKEA Group of companies, based in the Netherlands, is owned by Stichting INGKA Foundation, which is also the charitable arm of the corporation. Funds from Stichting INGKA Foundation can only be used one of two ways: reinvested in the IKEA Group and its franchises, or donated for charitable purposes.
Two books have been published about the IKEA story. In 1976, Kamprad detailed the concept and ideology of his company in 'A Testament of a Furniture Dealer,' which now serves as a manifesto for IKEA. In the late 1990s he worked with a Swedish journalist on 'Leading by Design: The IKEA Story,' an account of maintaining simplicity at IKEA and in his life.
Kamprad is known by his peers to be incredibly frugal. He reportedly prefers to fly economy, stay in cheap hotels, and has driven the same Volvo for two decades.
Today, IKEA has 370 stores in 47 countries. According to Wealth-X, Kamprad never borrowed money or issued a stock until he passed IKEA over to his foundations.
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