Ikea founder returns to native Sweden

Ingvar Kamprad, the 87-year-old rags-to-riches founder of global flat-pack furniture success Ikea, is moving home to his native Sweden after spending close to four decades in Switzerland, he told local media Wednesday.

"I'm moving back to Sweden to be closer to my family and old friends," the retired entrepreneur told Swedish daily Sydsvenskan in a message relayed by his spokesman Per Heggenes.

"Since my dear wife Margareta died about one and a half years ago, there is less and less keeping me in Switzerland," he said.

Ikea spokeswoman Josefine Thorell confirmed the news to AFP, saying Kamprad had always planned "to spend the rest of his life in Sweden" and that he hoped to move "before the end of the year".

Kamprad earlier this month announced he would step down as chairman from of the Inter Ikea board -- the group that owns the Ikea concept and brand -- handing over the reins to his youngest son Mathias.

Heggenes told Sydsvenskan that the octogenarian plans to settle down on his farm in Aelmhult in southern Sweden, where he spent much of his childhood years.

"It's a natural step in the last phase of life. Sweden is also a place where the family often gets together," Heggenes said.

The self-made business magnate founded Ikea in 1943, starting up what would become a world-wide business empire by selling pens and other small commodity products.

According to Swiss magazine Bilan, the Swede's fortune is today estimated to be worth between 38 billion-39 billion Swiss Francs (30 billion-31 billion euros or $40 billion-$42 billion).

Since his move to Switzerland in the 1970s, Kamprad has led a quiet life in the village of Epalinges, near Lausanne.

His habit of driving an old Volvo to the supermarket and taking advantage of discounts with a customer loyalty card has earned him a Swedish media reputation of being almost stingy.

But although, Kamprad is in the midst of preparing his retirement, he will not totally give up his day job.

Upon his resignation from Inter Ikea, he said he would continue to spend time in Ikea stores and factories, and remain on the supervisory board of the Liechtenstein-based Interogo Foundation, which owns the Inter Ikea Group.

Once he returns to Sweden, Kamprad will pay Swedish taxes again -- a hot topic ever since he moved from his homeland.

"Ingvar will pay tax on his revenues, just like everyone else in Sweden," Heggenes said.

Aelmhult mayor Elizabeth Peltola told Swedish tabloid Expressen she was rejoiced by the news.

"It's really great and it feels good in the heart."