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Ivar Kreuger

Ivar Kreuger

Ivar Kreuger (1880-1932), Swedish financier and industrialist, born in Kalmar March 2, 1880, as the eldest son of the industrialist and consul Ernst Kreuger and his wife Jenny. In school Ivar skipped ahead two classes to graduate at age 16, continuing his studies at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm where he graduated with two Master's degrees from the faculties of mechanical and civil engineering, at the age of 20.

From the turn of the century he spent seven years travelling and working abroad before returning home to form construction firm Kruger & Toll, with fellow engineer Paul Toll. The firm was a success and won prestigious contracts like the construction of the Stockholm Stadium and the department store Nordiska Kompaniet in Stockholm.

In 1917 Kreuger formed Svenska Tändsticks AB (Swedish Match), which by expanding through acquisition of national monopolies became the worlds largest match manufacturer. He set up an affiliate to Kruger & Toll in the United States and formed the International Match Corporation which eventually came to control two thirds of the world production in matches.

After founding the pulp manufacturer SCA in 1929 Kreuger were able to acquire the majority shares in telephone company Ericsson, the mining company Boliden, and major interests in the ball bearing manufacturer SKF, the bank Skandinaviska Kredit Aktiebolaget as well as others. Abroad he acquired Deutsche Unionsbank in Germany and Union de Banques á Paris in France and by 1931 an estimated 200 companies were controlled by Kreuger. However the stock market crash in New York in 1929 turned out to be a major factor in the liquidity crisis that would be fatal to both Kreuger and his Empire.

At the peak of his career the Kreuger fortune was estimated at a value of 30 Billion Swedish Krona in 1929, equivalent to approximately 100 Billion USD in 2000. In the same year the total loans made by Swedish banks were barely 4 Billion SEK, and an average worker made an annual salary of 3 195 SEK.

On March 12, 1932 Ivar Kreuger was found dead in a hotel room in Paris. Evidence suggested that he had shot himself, committing suicide rather that to face his creditors. There were claims that Kreugers wounds had not been self inflicted, but the death never the less precipitated the Kreuger Crash which hit both investors and the group companies hard.

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