ENFIELD, Conn. — The LEGO Group today celebrates the 75th anniversary of its 1932 founding in Billund, Denmark, by Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen. The company, which first produced wooden toys, is the world's leading construction toy manufacturer, producing high quality play materials that inspire children to build anything they can imagine.
The LEGO Group's global workforce marks the anniversary today with celebrations around the world. Employees at the North American headquarters in Enfield, Conn., will venture off-site to Boston.
Over the years, ownership of the LEGO Group has been handed down through the generations and now is in the hands of Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, the founder’s grandson.
"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," Kristiansen said.
Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, LEGO Group CEO, who took over the position from Kristiansen in 2004, said he aims to uphold what 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 10 $5,000 grants to children between the ages of 6 and 13 to help fund creative endeavors. Information and applications can be found at www.LEGOcreationnation.com
LEGO bricks are sold in more than 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-molding machine and began experimenting with the new material. In 1950, his son Godtfred Kirk Christiansen became managing director of the company. The contemporary LEGO brick was developed and patented under his leadership in 1958. 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 1979, Godtfred's son Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen became president and CEO. He raised LEGO play to a new level — adding stories, themes and role play. Children were introduced to new LEGO worlds, known as play themes. The first 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 CEO. As owner and deputy chairman of the board of directors, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen still is deeply involved in the company's development.