IKEA founder determined to keep company private
Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad is determined to keep the Swedish furniture giant off the stock exchange, he told AFP ahead of the inauguration Monday of a fellowship in honour of his late wife.
Kamprad, 86, told AFP in an email he had “always believed that keeping (Ikea) in private hands would give … more flexibility to develop successfully, allowing a longer-term perspective on business development.”
Kamprad’s comments came ahead of the opening Monday of the Margaretha Kamprad Chair of Environmental Science and Limnology at the EPFL technology institute in Lausanne.
Kamprad, who founded the unlisted, family-owned company in 1943, no longer gives interviews and did not speak at the event, but did answer a few questions electronically.
“Staying private has been one of the key reasons for Ikea’s tremendous success,” he insisted.
The world’s largest furniture retailer said last August that its trademark was worth 9.0 billion euros.
The company, which only releases annual earnings reports, posted a 10.3-percent hike in net profit in 2011 to nearly 3.0 billion euros on global sales of nearly 25 billion euros.
Kamprad, who lives in Lausanne, was himself listed last week by magazine Bilan as the richest man in Switzerland, with a net worth of up to 39 billion Swiss francs (32 billion euros, $42 billion).
Per Heggenes, the head of the Stiching Ikea Foundation charity behind the fellowship inaugurated Monday, told AFP the magazine had mistakenly attributed to Kamprad the value of Ikea, which has a complex ownership structure through several foundations.
“Mr Kamprad does not own Ikea and is not the richest person in Switzerland,” he said, also insisting that the Ikea founder’s reputation for frugality was no mere image stunt.
Kamprad, who is known to drive around in an old Volvo when in Sweden, fly economy class and even ride free Ikea buses when visiting his stores, “is personally not very interested in material goods,” he said.
“He lives a frugal life because that is his nature. He also believes that frugality, or constant cost consciousness, is another key value that has contributed greatly to Ikea’s business success,” he added.