How Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad secretly became the world's richest man

Recently deceased billionaire Ingvar Kamprad started Ikea in rural Sweden at the age of 17 and built it into a global behemoth.

by Johan Stenebo

Upon the death of Ingvar Kamprad, the world’s richest man in secret, we ought to ask how did he create the IKEA success story? Here is a man who, until his death on 28 January 2018 age 91, owned IKEA as sole proprietor, building a global behemoth from a single store in rural Sweden. I wrote a book about the different strands – some good, some ambiguous – of this business story. But there are two core strands that one can easily isolate.

Simplicity is a virtue

First and foremost, there is the genius of Kamprad himself since he was the instigator of most things (albeit not everything) within IKEA. Ingvar’s key mantra that ‘simplicity is a virtue’ is still central to the success story of IKEA. Only mediocre people propose complicated solutions, he would not hesitate to repeat over and over again.

That simple yet fertile message, powered enormous expansion. During my two decades as part of the company’s executive team in various parts of the company, and several years as Ingvar’s right-hand man, IKEA’s turnover went from SEK 25bn to 250bn, from 30,000 to 150,000 employees, from around 70 stores mainly concentrated in Northern Europe to 250 with global coverage. It is still an unparalleled expansion and achievement. IKEA remains the biggest and longest-running success story of modern times in Sweden if not all over the world.

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