IKEA says founder Ingvar Kamprad dies aged 91

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He died peacefully following a short illness, it said.

Mr Kamprad died quietly in his sleep in his home in Småland, southern Sweden, Ikea said in a statement.

Ingvar Kamprad was born in 1926 in Småland in southern Sweden.

He was a private man, living mostly in seclusion (and for a long time in Switzerland to avoid Sweden's high taxes).

"We are mourning the loss of our founder and dear friend Ingvar", Jesper Brodin, chief executive officer of the Ikea Group, the largest retailer in the Ikea franchise system, said in a statement.

Kamprad started IKEA in 1950, expanding a small retail operation he'd set up in his hometown of Smaland, Sweden via mail order-and adding furniture that would be shipped to customers' homes and assembled in order to keep prices low.

Though it wraps itself in the Swedish flag and identity, Ikea comprises an opaque construct of trusts, holding companies and subsidiaries based in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein that is now facing an European Union tax avoidance investigation.

And the Consortium of Investigative Journalists in 2014 cited leaked tax files from Luxembourg when it identified Ikea as one of the giant multinationals fingered for corporate tax avoidance by shuffling money to tax havens.

The group insists that it complies fully with national and global tax regulations.

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"He wanted to appear a man of the people, one of us", Stenebo wrote in a behind-the-scenes book, "The Truth About Ikea", released shortly after he left the company almost a decade ago. His life story is intimately linked to the company he founded on the family farm when he was 17 years old.

Mr Kamprad was also controversial figure.

In 2011, it was reported that he had been an active recruiter for a Swedish Nazi group after 1945, and was monitored by Swedish secret police.

Kamprad supposedly came up with the idea of self-assembly furniture in 1956 after watching one of his employees take the legs off a chair - or a table in some accounts - so it would fit into a customer's vehicle.

Outlining the IKEA philosophy in his "Testament of a furniture salesman" in 1976, Kamprad said wasting resources was "a mortal sin".

Ikea opened its first store in Almhult, Sweden, in 1958.

Kamprad announced his retirement in 1986 (his three sons run IKEA now), but continued travelling to his stores and making major decisions.

But Kamprad lived modestly, buying his clothes at thrift shops, driving an ageing Volvo, and bringing a lunch box to work.

He told the channel that he built his business on a "local ethos".