That structure not only protects IKEA from being split up or taken over, but, says Ohlsson, allows him to make investments in new markets or store upgrades that may not pay off for several years.
Throughout the conversation, the CEO stresses IKEA's eco-friendly policies and humble origins in a poor area of Sweden. In the Zaventem store on the outskirts of Brussels, solar panels on the roof provide up to 20 percent of the energy. The company owns several wind parks and one of its Berlin stores uses local wastewater to control internal temperatures.
IKEA has come a long way from its start in the Smaland region in Southern Sweden. Today it employs 131,000 people in 41 countries and its 287 stores drew in 655 million customers last year.
Ohlsson says he believes the urge to upgrade and become more comfortable does not seem to recede during an economic downturn. Asked whether IKEA's business was "recession-proof," Ohlsson laughs somewhat embarrassed.
"I wouldn't say it like that and it would not be humble to say it," he said.
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