June
2017

Ivar Kreuger

The "Match King" or "the world's greatest swindler".
Ivar Kreuger
Source: Unknown

Ivar Kreuger (March 2, 1880 - March 12, 1932) was a Swedish civil engineer, financier, entrepreneur and industrialist. In 1908 Kreuger co-founded the construction company Kreuger & Toll Byggnads AB which specialized in new building techniques.

By aggressive investments and innovative financial instruments he built a global match and financial empire. Between the two world wars, he negotiated match monopolies with European and Central and South American governments, and finally controlled two thirds of the worldwide match production, and became known as the "Match King".

Kreuger's financial empire, described by some as a Ponzi scheme, based on the supposedly fantastic profitability of Kreuger's match monopolies, collapsed during the Great Depression, and in March 1932, he shot and killed himself.

Kreuger's Contribution
Kreuger did not only "acquire" companies but also introduced a new way of thinking in the match industry with large scale production facilities; new ideas to increase efficiency in both production, administration, and distribution; and in the sales organisation. This was the starting point for the large international corporations that have since become the norm in the industrial world.

By expanding the Swedish Match company through acquisition of government-created monopolies, the Swedish company became the world's largest match manufacturer. Kreuger set up an affiliate to Kreuger & Toll AB in the United States, and together with Lee, Higginson & Co. in New York, formed the International Match Corporation. This group eventually came to control almost 75% of the world production in matches.

By 1931 an estimated 200 companies were controlled by Kreuger. However, the Stock Market Crash of 1929 turned out to be a major factor in exposing his accounting that ultimately proved fatal to both Kreuger and his empire.

In 1929, at the peak of his career, the Kreuger fortune was thought to be worth 30bn Swedish kronor, equivalent to approximately US$100bn USD in 2000, comprising more than 200 companies. In the same year the total loans made by Swedish banks were barely 4bn SEK.

Read Kreuger's Story

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