Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad dies at 91

STOCKHOLM - Billionaire Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad has died aged 91, the Swedish company said on Sunday (Jan 28), with the furniture empire he launched more than half a century ago familiar around the globe.

Mr Kamprad founded Ikea in 1943 when he was just 17, but did not hit gold until 1956, when the company pioneered flat-pack furniture.

He got the idea as he watched an employee taking the legs off a table to fit it into a customer's car and realised that saving space meant saving money.

The retailer is now heading for 50 billion euros (S$81 billion) in annual revenues.

"One of the greatest entrepreneurs of the 20th century, Ingvar Kamprad, has peacefully passed away, at his home in Smaland, Sweden, on the 27th of January," the company said.

"Ingvar will be very missed and warmly remembered by his family and Ikea colleagues around the world," Ikea said on its Twitter account.

Born on March 30, 1926, in southern Sweden, Mr Kamprad started off selling matches to neighbours at the age of five and soon diversified his inventory to include seeds, Christmas tree decorations, pencils and ball-point pens.

"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," the company said.

"He worked until the very end of his life, staying true to his own motto that most things remain to be done."

Mr Kamprad named his company Ikea, using the initials of his own name. The "e" is a reference to the family farm Elmtaryd and the "a" refers to the village of Agunnaryd, Sweden, where he grew up.

Mr Kamprad, who is dyslexic, could not remember the number codes of his furniture so he devised his own naming method.

According to The Guardian, carpets are named after places in Denmark and dining tables have names inspired by places in Finland. Chairs and desks have masculine names while curtains have feminine names.

Mr Kamprad was known for buying his clothes at flea markets, driving an old Volvo and flying only economy class. Although he was a billionaire many times over, he reveled in his reputation for saving money.