LEGO, long-term, and the cockroaches

I read something yesterday mentioning LEGO and their exceptional rebound, 20 years after being near bankrupt when they were close to 1 billion dollars in debt. I instantly thought: they deserve their spot in the cockroaches page. Which then sent me back down the memory lane and their incredibly rich story.

Memory lane cause we spent a day at Legoland in The Hague last Xmas. The kids loved the place, obviously. Mathilde and I were disappointed but I'd say it's more because we were expected something more 'grandiose' - a la Disneyland - than just the space not being cool. It still reminded us countless hours of playing with bricks coming from our parents childhood. Our own kids are now crazy about it. I spent a few hours the other day building with them a 15-bedroom house for all their super-heroes toys.

A few month ago we spent a weekend at some very close friends house and the guy is still obsessed with LEGO. He got a whole collection of old cars, sport ones, the Millennium Falcon and other artefacts in his basement, proudly displayed next to his collection of wine. It's pretty impressive.

The first product line is presented in 1932

The global economic crisis forces carpenter Ole Kirk Kristiansen to produce new easy saleable products. The beginning of the LEGO Group starts with wooden toys, such as cars, airplanes and yoyo's. We are in 1932, in a small danish town named Billund.

In late 1935, Ole Kirk Kristiansen decides to further concentrate his business on the toy production. This decision involves finding a new name for the company. Ole started playing with the two Danish words LEG GODT (meaning Play Well) to produce the LEGO name. The new name is officially used from January 1936.

From there their story is full of ups and downs. From the workshop catching fire in 1942 and losing the entire inventory and blueprints; to holding the business with one of his son; to developing the patented interlocking system that made the LEGO bricks famously stackable; to popularity; to taking another hit in the 1990's; to avoiding bankruptcy in the early 2000s; to surpassing Mattel in 2012 to become the world's most valuable toy company, valued at more than $14.6 billion.