'Frugal Billionaire' Dies at Age 91. Would Take Home Salt & Pepper Packets from Restaurants


Ikea has helped define the look of a generation. Its sleek, budget-friendly furniture has helped many a college grad, graduate student, or young family furnish their home.

The economical flat pack furniture is almost everywhere. Do any of us not have a story of the joy and terror that is using an Allen wrench to build our home furnishings?

On Jan. 28, 2018, Ingvar Kamprad, the billionaire founder of Ikea, passed away. “One of the greatest entrepreneurs of the 20th century, Ingvar Kamprad, has peacefully passed away at his home in Smaland, Sweden, on Jan. 27,” Ikea said in a statement.

His value was estimated to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $58 billion — more money than most of us can really even imagine.

He didn’t stumble into it, though. He wasn’t handed money because of position or lineage — he worked hard for every single penny from a very young age.

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Kamprad was known for his frugality: in his own home town he was known as ‘Uncle Scrooge’ or ‘The Miser.’ He drove an aged Volvo and would take home salt and pepper packs after he went out to eat.

He refused to wear suits and ties and would only fly coach. This frugality would also extend to Ikea’s business practices. Employees were encouraged to fly economy and stay at budget hotels.

In an pamphlet Kamprad penned, “The Testament of a Furniture Dealer,” Kamprad stressed that wasting resources was a sin and that the company had a duty to expand.

Kamprad has not been running the company since 1988. He remained an active part of the company’s culture, functioning as an adviser. An employee magazine in 2012 stated his kids would have an extended role in the company. By 2013 he had stepped down as chairman of the board.

Kamprad showed an inclination toward business from an early age. At age 5 he would buy matchsticks in bulk and sell them in smaller packs to friends and neighbors.

From there he went to selling seeds, pencils, and eventually pens, wallets, and nylons from a modified milk van. He stumbled on the idea of flat pack furniture when an early Ikea employee took a table apart to transport it.

Kamprad started Ikea at age 17. In part he used money his father gave him for doing well in school, despite his dyslexia.

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What are most 17-year-olds you know doing right now? Maybe playing video games, or preparing college applications if they’re industrious. You probably don’t know many — any? — who are as devoted to business as Kamprad was.

He was active and lived by his frugal principles to the end, and is being hailed as the “greatest Swedish entrepreneur to have ever lived.”

“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 statement.

The Swedish Foreign Minister said Kamprad “put Sweden on the world map.” There is no word if if the map comes in a flat pack and requires assembly.

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