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Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad steps down as chairman

ikea-logoIkea founder Ingvar Kamprad has left the board of the Swedish furniture brand, seven months after the 87-year-old insisted that he was "too busy to die" and had no plans to retire. Mr Kamprad, who founded IKEA in the 1940s, stepped down from his role as chairman of the parent company on Wednesday. Mr Kamprad will be replaced by his youngest son, Mathias.

Ikea said the board changes formed part of a "generational shift that has been prepared for and ongoing for some years", and Ingvar Kamprad insisted that he would continue working with the flat-pack giant.

"I will continue to share ideas and views. And I will continue to spend time in the stores and in the factories to work with people and help achieve constant improvement. Our journey has just started,” he said in a statement.

Born on a Swedish farm in 1926, Ingvar Kamprad started in business by buying matches in bulk and then selling them on at a profit.

The discovery that he could deliver furniture to customers more easily if he removed the legs first, led to the flat-pack revolution that would eventually turn Ikea into a multi-billion pound corporation and increase his own net worth to $3.3bn (£2.15bn), according to Forbes.

While Ikea reported an annual profit of €3.2bn (£2.7bn) last year, the Kamprad family has kept a low profile, with Ingvar Kamprad preferring a frugal life. According to reports, he still drives the Volvo 240 GL he has owned for over two decades and flies economy class.

Last October, Mr Kamprad dismissed reports in the Swedish media that he intended to step down. "I have so much work to do and no time to die," he said.

Mr Kamprad has also faced harsh criticism in the past for his ties to the Nazi youth movement during World War II.

After his involvement became public in 1994, he sent a letter to the firm's 25,000 employees to explain how in "my greatest failure" he had been close to the openly Nazi group Nysvenska (neo-Swedish) between the end of World War II and the early 1950's. In a separate interview that year, Mr Kamprad said he now recognised "that was my stupidest error."

Mathias Kamprad, 43, spent four years with Habitat, the British furniture chain founded by Sir Terence Conran and owned by the Kamprad family until 2009, before moving back to Ikea's Swedish division.