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Ikea’s Ingvar Kamprad is Europe’s richest man

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad is Europe's richest man. Bloomberg values his fortune as more than $40 billion, Kamprad controls Ikea through a network of holding companies and legal entities, a Bloomberg report said.

Ikea reported that it earned $4 billion in net profit in 2011 and had operating income of nearly $5 billion and gross profit of more than $15 billion on $34 billion in sales, Bloomberg said. These figures were the basis of Bloomberg's analysis.

In 1982, Kamprad gave his stake in the company to the Stichting INGKA Foundation. The foundation owns all the shares in INGKA Holding BV, which in turn owns about 90% of Ikea stores worldwide, the Bloomberg article said. In 1989, Kamprad established the Interogo Foundation, based in Liechtenstein, which owns the rights to the Ikea concept. Interogo is controlled, but not owned, by the Kamprad family.

Kamprad's family's private investment vehicle, the Ikano Group, is based in Luxembourg and is worth about $2 billion. It is chaired by Peter Kamprad, one of Ingvar Kamprad's three sons. The Ikano Group runs consumer credit, asset management, real estate management and insurance businesses and also owns four Ikea franchise stores in Asia, the Bloomberg report said. Also, Stichting IMAS Foundation manages dividends earned from Ikea's main franchisee, INGKA Holding, the article said.

Kamprad moved from his native country, Sweden, in the 1970s. He has said that because of tax laws in Sweden at the time, he couldn't keep the company private if he stayed there, according to Bloomberg.

Since 2009, Stichting INGKA Foundation's philanthropic goal has been to provide opportunities for young people in developing countries. Between 2009 and 2011, the Ikea foundation, a Dutch philanthropic arm, donated about $235 million to disaster relief and aid in Kenya, Somalia, Haiti and China, the article said. Another foundation, the Kamprad Family Foundation, supports research and education in Sweden.

Specialists in trust and foundation law in Holland and Liechtenstein told Bloomberg that the foundation structure doesn't preclude the sale of Ikea assets, though it complicates such a transaction. Amsterdam corporate attorney Ep Hannema told Bloomberg:

"The idea with a structure such as this is to create continuity so that if the founder dies, no manager who owns shares or family member who owns shares can take control individually. Downstream there are possibilities for anyone who wants to, to minimize the amount of profits that flow to the foundation. It's just not very clear to the outside world."

Werner Haslehner of the London School of Economics told Bloomberg:

"The purpose for one of these entities is to separate assets from the original owner in order to preserve wealth. One of the main reasons for someone to create one of these is to create something that will outlive their heirs."

(Source: Bloomberg, March 4, 2012.)

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