For Lego, rising wealth means more play - and business

Thu Oct 3, 2013 11:18am EDT
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By Eveline Danubrata and Laura Philomin

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The boss of Lego Group carries two business cards - one the usual kind and the other a Lego mini-figure in his likeness, complete with beard and glasses, with contact details on the back.

That kind of playful thinking has helped the Danish company become the world's second-biggest toy maker as it clicks with fast-growing Asia and builds on its popular plastic bricks with video games and theme parks.

"We are seeing a society where the wealthier it becomes, the more room there is for what I call the business of play," Chief Executive Jørgen Vig Knudstorp told Reuters in Singapore.

"In that I will include the role of play in education, the role of play in theme parks and family entertainment, the role of play in adult age."

Video games are big business and Lego Group has "a major role through licensing arrangements" but the digital realm is a complement, not a replacement, for physical play, he said.

"You can say that the fundamental patterns of play are unchanged through generations but the technology and materials are changing," said Knudstorp, who was a management consultant at McKinsey and Co before he joined Lego in 2001 and was named chief executive in 2004.

Lego has a partnership with video game developer TT Games that has resulted in titles such as Lego Star Wars and Lego Batman. Another game, Life of George, combines building physical bricks with apps that can be downloaded on an iPhone.

Lego, whose name is derived from the Danish words "leg godt" meaning "play well", started 81 years ago in the workshop of carpenter Ole Kirk Kristiansen and is now owned by the founder's grandson and his children.   Continued...

A shopper browses at a Lego store in Singapore October 2, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su