The billionaire founder of Ikea, Ingvar Kamprad, had long maintained that he and his family no longer controlled the global furniture giant. But a Swedish documentary claimed on Thursday that he has used a previously unknown foundation to run the company in secret and avoid taxes.
"In total secrecy, he has created a foundation in one of the world's most infamous tax havens - Liechtenstein," the documentary, aired on Swedish public network SVT, alleged.
The program claimed that Kamprad's Interogo Foundation is "the real Ikea". It was previously believed that an organization called Stichting Ingka Foundation alone ran the home furnishings company, which has stores in 26 countries and posted earnings of almost 3 billion euros ($4.1 billion) last year.
In a statement released ahead of the documentary, Kamprad admitted his family controls Interogo Foundation, founded in 1980.
Yet he claimed its purpose was not to avoid taxes, but "to invest in expansion and business deals and to secure the long-term survival of Ikea."
Following the money
The program said three percent of Ikea's sales go to Interogo Foundation in the form of tax-free royalties on every single product Ikea sells, and that the foundation has funds worth 11.2 billion euros ($15.4 billion).
Still, Kamprad's personal spokesperson told German news agency dpa that the documentary's findings were no revelation.
"Soon after Ingvar was asked by 'uppdrag granskning' [the Swedish program] last fall, he explained the entire structure," Per Heggenes said.
Eighty-four-year-old Kamprad, who founded Ikea in Sweden in 1943, cuts an idiosyncratic figure in the public arena. Considered one of the richest men in the world, he nevertheless puts great store in personal thrift.
Author: Shant Shahrigian (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Nicole Goebel