The LEGO Group today celebrates the 75-year anniversary of its founding in Billund, Denmark August 10, 1932, by a Danish carpenter named Ole Kirk Christiansen. The company, which first produced wooden toys, is now the world's leading construction toy manufacturer, producing high quality play materials that inspire children to build what they can possibly -- and impossibly -- imagine.
The LEGO Group's entire global workforce fetes the anniversary today, with celebrations happening around the world. Employees at the North American headquarters in Enfield, Connecticut will enjoy a full program of activities and fun during an off-site venture to Boston.
Over the years, ownership of the LEGO Group has been handed down through the generations and is today in the hands of Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, grandson of the founder, who proudly celebrates his company's 75th birthday.
Kristiansen said: "I feel an immense sense of pleasure and pride when I meet children and adults who enjoy our products. Throughout its 75-year history the LEGO Group has been through difficult and good times -- fortunately much more good than difficult! This has been possible only because we have been blessed with -- and still have -- an incredibly committed team of employees. They have helped to keep alive the fundamental principles on which my grandfather set up the company. So I'm confident that we can look forward to the next 75 years."
Although the LEGO Group has existed for many years, it still observes the same values that were laid down when the company started business. Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, LEGO Group CEO, who took over the position from Kristiansen in 2004, aims to uphold everything that has made the LEGO Group what it is today.
"Our history means a lot to us. This is perhaps best reflected in our motto, which was also one of our founder's favorite principles: 'Only the best is good enough.' Quality, creativity and fun have always been our key values because they provide the strongest platform for children's development and learning through play. And they are more in keeping with the times than ever," Knudstorp said. "The LEGO brick and the LEGO system will continue in future to be the foundation on which we base our business because we offer children unique opportunities to grow and develop through play."
To encourage creativity and development through play, LEGO Systems, Inc, the company's North American division, launched the annual LEGO Creativity Awards, designed to award ten $5,000 grants to children between the ages of 6 and 13 to help fund creative endeavors. Information and applications can be found at http://www.LEGOcreationnation.com
Today, LEGO bricks are sold in over 130 countries, and there are approximately 62 LEGO bricks for every one of the world's 6 billion inhabitants. It's estimated that children spend 5 billion hours a year playing with LEGO bricks. At the beginning of the 21st Century, the LEGO brick was acclaimed "Toy of the Century" -- first by Fortune Magazine and later by the British Association of Toy Retailers.
It began with wooden toys ...
In the early 1930s, the world was in the grip of an economic depression. Ole Kirk Christiansen felt its effects in his carpentry business, so he looked for other ways of earning a living, and decided on wooden toys. The company name emerged in 1934, when "LEGO" an abbreviation of the Danish words "LEG GODT", meaning Play Well, was established.
In 1946, Christiansen bought his first plastic injection-moulding machine and began experimenting with the new material. In 1950, his son, Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, became managing director of the company -- and it was in 1958 under his leadership that the contemporary LEGO brick was developed and patented. A fire destroyed the wooden-product warehouse in 1960, and the company focused entirely on the product idea of the LEGO System, which had proven its viability through a successful international expansion in a number of countries.
In 1979, Godtfred's son, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, became president and CEO. He raised LEGO play to a new level -- by adding stories, themes and role play. Children were introduced to new LEGO worlds, known as play themes. The first of these was a journey out of this world with the LEGO Space series in 1979. Simultaneously, the company grew considerably through an acceleration of the international expansion and development of the LEGO brand.
After 25 years as President of the company, in 2004, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen appointed Jorgen Vig Knudstorp as the current Chief Executive Officer. As owner and deputy chairman of the board of directors, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen is still deeply involved in the company's development.