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PHILANTHROPY: Ikea's late founder structured business as three foundations

When Ikea’s Ingvar Kamprad died at age 91, he was ranked No. 8 on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index thanks to his control of a global retail fortune valued at $58.7 billion.

His wealth will now be dissipated because of a unique structure put in place by Kamprad to secure the long-term independence and survival of the Ikea concept. Kamprad disputed his status as one of the richest men on the planet, having decades earlier placed control of the world’s largest furniture seller into a network of foundations and holding companies.

Kamprad’s heirs now won’t have direct control of the firm. They will have a more meager fortune derived from family-owned Ikano Group, a collection of finance, real estate, manufacturing and retail businesses which had total assets of about $10 billion in 2016. Most Ikea stores are owned by the Stichting Ingka Foundation, a Dutch entity with the stated purpose of donating to charity and "supporting innovation" in design, according to its founding statute.

The structure, which Kamprad established in the 1980s, assures that the Almhult, Sweden-based company stays outside the family’s direct control.

The company’s trademarks, brand and concept were placed under the ultimate control of Vaduz, Liechtenstein-based Interogo Foundation whose subsidiary, Inter Ikea, is the global Ikea franchisor.

“Interogo Foundation is managed by a Foundation Council (Stiftungsrat) consisting of at least two members and a Supervisory Council (Beirat), as a principle consisting of seven members,” Anders Bylund, Interogo’s head of communications wrote in a Jan. 29 email. “The Kamprad family members in the Supervisory Councils have been and shall always be in minority.”

Though called a foundation, the mission of the Stichting Ingka is only partly philanthropic. Its statutes also allow for profits to be reinvested in the company, according to Per Heggenes, the chief executive of the Ikea Foundation. The foundation owns itself, so no Kamprad family members hold shares.

The structure was designed to ensure Ikea, in its present form, would long outlive its founder. Trust experts say the set-up emphasizes continuity by making it impossible for an individual, whether a manager or heir, to assume control after Kamprad’s death. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index attributed the fortune to Kamprad in recognition of his role as founder with control over the entire structure.