STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Billionaire IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad has died aged 91, the Swedish company said on Sunday, with the furniture empire he launched more than half a century ago familiar around the globe.
Kamprad founded IKEA in 1943 when he was just 17, but didn't hit gold until 1956, when the company pioneered flat-pack furniture.
He got the idea as he watched an employee taking the legs off a table to fit it into a customer's car and realised that saving space meant saving money.
The retailer is now heading for 50 billion euros ($62 billion) in annual revenues.
"One of the greatest entrepreneurs of the 20th century, Ingvar Kamprad, has peacefully passed away, at his home in Smaland, Sweden, on the 27th of January," the company said.
Born on March 30, 1926, in southern Sweden, Kamprad started off selling matches to neighbours at the age of five and soon diversified his inventory to include seeds, Christmas tree decorations, pencils and ball-point pens.
"Ingvar Kamprad was a great entrepreneur of the typical southern Swedish kind - hardworking and stubborn, with a lot of warmth and a playful twinkle in his eye," the company said.
"He worked until the very end of his life, staying true to his own motto that most things remain to be done." ($1 = 0.8052 euros)
IKEA around the world
IKEA around the world
Shoppers wait in a long queue outside a store of Ikea in Gwangmyeong, south of Seoul, on December 18, 2014. Global furniture giant Ikea opened its first store in South Korea a much-anticipated market entry that has stumbled at a number of commercial and cultural hurdles along the way. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
ALMHULT, SWEDEN - MAY 12: KEA CEO Peter AgnefjÃ Â ll announced a collection of furniture that can wirelessly charge devices at the Democratic Design Day conference at the IKEA headquarters in rural Sweden. May 12, 2015. (Randy Risling/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Shoppers walk past a logo of Ikea at its store in Gwangmyeong, south of Seoul, on December 18, 2014. Global furniture giant Ikea opened its first store in South Korea a much-anticipated market entry that has stumbled at a number of commercial and cultural hurdles along the way. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
EMERYVILLE, CA - JUNE 26: A customer leaves an IKEA store on June 26, 2014 in Emeryville, California. Swedish furniture retailer IKEA announced that it plans to raise the minimum wage for its retail employees in the U.S. by an average of 17 percent in 2015. The minimum wage will increase by an average of $1.59 to $10.76 an hour. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A picture taken on November 28, 2013 in Toulouse shows the parking of an Ikea store.AFP PHOTO / REMY GABALDA (Photo credit should read REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty Images)
An aerial view shows a Ikea department store on November 17, 2011 over Vitrolles, southern France. AFP PHOTO/GERARD JULIEN (Photo credit should read GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images)
View of the Ikea store in Roissy-en-France, north of Paris, as workers of the Swedish furniture designer Ikea hold a national strike calling for higher wages. The strike hit 16 of the 26 French stores, and some 500 workers out of the 5,500 due to work today according to management and about 50% of the personel according to the CGT union, one of the three unions that called for the strike. AFP PHOTO / JACQUES DEMARTHON (Photo credit should read JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view of Swedish retail giant IKEA in the coastal Israeli city of Netanya on August 24, 2009. Israel pressed Stockholm to condemn a report by a Swedish newspaper about alleged body-snatching that has stoked tensions between the two countries. Sweden's Aftonbladet newspaper sparked the row last week when it published a report claiming Israeli soldiers snatched Palestinian youths to steal their organs and returned their dismembered bodies days later. The Swedish government has declined to condemn the piece, saying it has to respect the principle of freedom of expression enshrined in its constitution. Hundreds of Israelis have signed an online petition to boycott the Swedish retail giant IKEA to protest the article and Stockholm's stance, the daily Haaretz reported. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
NANJING, CHINA - AUGUST 28: (CHINA OUT) A member of staff works in a new IKEA store on August 28, 2008 in Nanjing of Jiangsu Province, China. IKEA launched a new store in Nanjing, the sixth shop in China, covering an area of over 30,000 square meters. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)
Haparanda, SWEDEN: Visitors at the new IKEA furniture department store 15 November 2006 in Haparanda at the very northern Swedish boarder to Finland and Russia. AFP Photo/Thord Nilsson (Photo credit should read THORD NILSSON/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING - APRIL 12: A Chinese worker performs during the opening ceremony of IKEA's new Siyuanqiao store on April 12, 2006 in Beijing, China. The world's leading home furnishings retailer, opens the 43,000 square meter store which is the world's second largest IKEA store on Wednesday. (Photo by Cancan Chu/Getty Images)
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12: The sponsors balloon is seen as part of the night glow balloon display at the 'IKEA Bristol International Balloon Fiesta' at the Ashton Court Estate on August 12, 2004 in Bristol, England. The 26th annual festival, which runs until August 15, is the largest balloon fiesta outside the U.S. attracting 150 balloons and over 500,000 visitors. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
DELFT, NETHERLANDS - DECEMBER 11: The exterior of an IKEA store is shown December 4, 2002 in Delft, the Netherlands. All 10 stores of the furniture retailing giant in the Netherlands were closed after explosives were found December 4 in IKEA stores in Amsterdam and Sliedrecht, the Netherlands. (Photo by Michel Porro/Getty Images)
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(Reporting by Simon Johnson; Editing by Jane Merriman and Keith Weir)