STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Ingvar Kamprad, founder of furniture company IKEA, announced on Wednesday he plans to return home to Sweden 40 years after leaving the country to escape its high taxes.
Kamprad, 87, said he would return from Switzerland before year-end and settle down on a farm outside of Almhult, a southern Swedish town where he founded IKEA 70 years ago and put Swedish "flat-pack" furniture on the global map.
"Moving back to Sweden gets me closer to my family and my old friends," Kamprad said in a statement. "After my dear wife Margareta died about a year and a half ago, there is less that keeps me in Switzerland."
Kamprad's decision to return to the Nordic country comes after several moves within the world's biggest furniture retailer to prepare for a handover of power to the next generation.
The Kamprad family still controls the complex corporate structure that makes up the IKEA empire and Kamprad himself has kept a tight grip behind the scenes.
The company announced earlier this month that Kamprad would leave the board of a key company within the business which owns the brand and directs strategy, and that his youngest son would take over as its chairman.
Kamprad, who built IKEA from a shop in his garden shed selling watches and Christmas cards, is today one of Europe's wealthiest men. He left Sweden in the 1970s in protest of the country's high taxes, setting up residence in Switzerland.
"At that time, the tax regime was very restrictive," IKEA said.
But Sweden's center-right coalition government has chipped away at the country's generous welfare system during its nearly two terms in office, trimming income taxes and abolishing a wealth tax.
IKEA has grown despite austerity in Europe, and now Kamprad's three sons must take up the challenge of spreading in markets like China and India and making further inroads online.
(Reporting by Mia Shanley; Editing by Kenneth Barry)