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Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad dies at 91

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STOCKHOLM — Ingvar Kamprad, who founded Ikea as a teenager and made it a global empire selling affordable flat-pack furniture for home assembly, died at 91, the company said Sunday.

The retailer said Kamprad died Saturday after a short illness.

Kamprad stepped down as Ikea’s chief executive in 1986 but continued to advise the company’s board for many years, and was active until his death.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven was among leading Swedish politicians who paid tribute to Kamprad, lauding his role as an entrepreneur.

“He helped put Sweden on the map,” Wallstrom wrote on Twitter.

Kamprad was born in Smaland, in the south of Sweden, in 1926. He founded Ikea at age 17 when he registered the name — an acronym combining his initials with the first letters of the words Elmtaryd, the family farm, and Agunnaryd, the nearest village.

In 1958, he opened Ikea’s first store in Almhult, not far from where he was born. The company spread its Scandinavian design around the world — and Swedish meatballs at its in-store restaurants — expanding hugely over the years.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Ikea opened stores in neighboring Nordic and other European countries. By fiscal year 2017, it had more than 300 stores in 29 countries.

After many years abroad, in Denmark and later Switzerland, Kamprad returned to Sweden a few years ago and settled in his native Smaland.

One reason he cited for moving home was the 2011 death of his second wife, Margaretha, with whom he had his three sons. All three have roles in the company.

Kamprad was celebrated for his work ethic and frugality. But his long life also included darker moments. He talked openly about his struggle with drinking and made a public apology after a 1994 newspaper disclosure that he supported a Swedish fascist movement in his youth.

He spelled out his business philosophy in a 1976 tract titled “The Testament of a Furniture Dealer” that said Ikea was to offer “a range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”

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