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Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad dead at 91

By Ben Hooper

Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Ingvar Kamprad, founder of Swedish furniture giant Ikea, has died following a short illness, the company said. He was 91.

Ikea said in a statement on its website that Kamprad died "surrounded by his loved ones" at his home in Smaland.

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Kamprad founded Ikea when he was only 17 years old using funds given to him by his father as a reward for his performance in school. The brand would go on to earn him billions, with hundreds of Ikea stores being opened around the world.

"We are deeply saddened by Ingvar's passing. We will remember his dedication and commitment to always side with the many people. To never give up, always try to become better and lead by example," said Torbjorn Loof CEO and president of Inter IKEA Group.

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The company said Kamprad ceased to have an operational role with Ikea in 1988, but he "continued to contribute to the business in the role of senior adviser."

Kamprad stepped down from the company's board in 2013.

"We are mourning the loss of our founder and dear friend Ingvar. His legacy will be admired for many years to come and his vision -- to create a better everyday life for the many people -- will continue to guide and inspire us," said Jesper Brodin, CEO and president of the IKEA Group.

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Kamprad, whose fortune was estimated at $28 billion by Forbes, lived in Switzerland for many years to reduce his tax burden, but returned to Sweden in 2014.

The entrepreneur admitted in a 1999 book about his life that he had been previously involved with Nazi groups, which he described as the "biggest mistake" of his life.

A spokesman for Kamprad in 2011 confirmed reports that the time that he has been an active recruiter for a Swedish Nazi group after 1945, leading to his being monitored by Swedish secret police. The spokesman said Kamprod had since renounced Nazi ideology.

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Kamprad was married twice and fathered four children.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven was among those who paid tribute to the departed billionaire.

"I have received the sad news about Ingvar Kamprad's passing. My thoughts today are first and foremost with his family and friends. Ingvar Kamprad was a unique entrepreneur who meant a lot for Swedish business and who made interior decorating accessible for the many, not just the few," Lofven said in a written statement to news agency TT.

Swedish King Carl Gustaf also expressed his sympathies.

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"Ingvar Kamprad was a true entrepreneur who through his life work with Ikea contributed to bringing Sweden to the world," he said. "He was a down to earth person with a high degree of engagement. The queen and I had the privilege last summer to work with him on the issue of housing for the elderly. My thoughts and the deepest sympathies of my family and I go to Ingvar Kamprad's family and friends."

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