IKEA Founder Ingvar Kamprad Dies at 91

Ingvar Kamprad, the man who created IKEA, leaves behind a professional legacy that’s all about simplicity: sleek, affordable, Scandinavian-designed furniture with wordless assembly instructions.

His personal legacy, however, is more complicated: from a reputation for strict frugality to flirtations with fascism.

But we’ll get to that.

Kamprad died Saturday at the age of 91 at his home in Smaland in southern Sweden, with his loved ones by his side, according to a statement from IKEA. The company says he had faced a “short illness.”

“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,” says Jesper Brodin, the CEO and president of the IKEA Group.

The company Kamprad founded at 17 grew into a multinational behemoth, with nearly 400 stores worldwide, almost a billion store visits per year and more than $36 billion in annual retail sales in Europe alone.

Though the company — which never went public — was and remains secretive about its finances, it did reveal its balance sheet for the 2009 fiscal year. NPR’s Jacob Goldstein reported the upshot of the financial disclosure in 2010:

“The company is sitting on a huge pile of cash, and managed to grow throughout the economic turbulence of the past few years.

“In its 2009 fiscal year, Ikea made $3.5 billion in profits on $30.2 billion in revenues. And the company was holding $19.7 billlion in cash at the end of that year. (Ikea reported results in euros; I converted the figures to dollars at the current exchange rate.)”

The retailer hopes to generate $62 billion in annual revenues by 2020, according to Reuters.

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SOURCE: NPR, Chris Benderev