June 5 (Bloomberg) -- Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad handed his youngest son the chairmanship of the company that controls the flat-pack furniture chain’s brand and concept as the retailer transitions power to the family’s next generation.
Mathias Kamprad replaces Chairman Per Ludvigsson as part of a generational shift that has been in preparation for years, Inter Ikea Group said in a statement today.
Ingvar Kamprad, 87, who started selling matches to his neighbors at the age of five and founded Ikea in 1943, retired as chief executive officer of the biggest home-furnishings retailer in 1986. He’s the world’s fifth-richest man, with an estimated worth of $52.7 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s index.
“I see this as a good time for me to leave the board of Inter Ikea Group,” Kamprad said in the statement, adding that he won’t stop working.
The Ikea founder will still have a say in how the business is run, according to Matthew Walton, a retail analyst at researcher Verdict. Yet his decision to take a step back could be a precursor to an increased online presence, he said.
“Historically, Ikea has been highly resistant to the channel, but developing this side of its offer may be pushed more to the fore now,” Walton said.
Ikea’s ownership structure consists of a number of foundations and associated companies based in the Netherlands and other countries. Kamprad remains on the board of Liechtenstein-based Interogo Foundation, which owns the Inter Ikea Group and is also senior adviser to the parent company of the Ikea Group, which owns most of the world’s Ikea stores.
Inter Ikea Group also said today 2012 net profit rose to 443 million euros ($579 million) from 87 million euros a year earlier, mainly due to a one-time gain. Its total revenue increased 9.5 percent to 2.66 billion euros.
“Our main task will always be to ensure a long life for the Ikea concept by keeping the needs of the many people in mind,” Mathias Kamprad said in the statement. “As this will require investments in both good and bad times, the group strives to be financially independent.”
The Ikea Group earlier this year said sales for the 12 months ending Aug. 31 increased 9.5 percent to 27 billion euros, while net income rose 8 percent to 3.2 billion euros as customers kept buying Billy bookcases and Swedish meatballs at their in-store restaurants.
“We don’t take anything for granted, and know that the list of improvements is endless,” said Soeren Hansen, CEO of Inter Ikea Group, adding that Ikea’s franchisees had met customers’ needs during the economic slump.
The Ikea founder, who fled Sweden in the 1970s because of the country’s high taxes and now lives in the Swiss village of Epalinges near Lausanne, is known for his frugal lifestyle. An employee magazine last year revealed his three sons had received more active roles at the tightly controlled empire. Mathias, born in 1969, is also a board member of Interogo Foundation.
Kamprad has three sons -- Peter, Jonas and Mathias -- from his marriage with Margaretha Kamprad-Stennert, who died in 2011. In his first marriage with Kerstin Wadling, he also adopted a daughter, Annika Kihlblom.
Mathias’s older brothers are also engaged in the family’s business; Peter is the chairman of the finance, real estate, insurance and retail arm, Ikano Group, while Jonas sits on the board of Ingka Holding, the parent company of the Ikea Group.
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