LEGO MASTER: With Kjeld Kristiansen, it’s what you see is what you get

KJELD KRISTIANSEN LED THE COMPANY ON THE GREATEST GLOBAL EXPANSIONISM IN ITS HISTORY. THE LEGO BOX IN 1957 FEATURING KJELD AND HIS SISTER.

IN 1997, WHEN THIS ARTICLE APPEARED, THE LEGO GROUP WAS ONE OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST TOY MAKERS. TODAY, IT HAS BECOME A LEADER IN THE LEGO INDUSTRY.

ADAPTED BY FRANK MORRIS.

Meeting the president and chief executive of the Lego group, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, of the world’s fifth largest toymaker, one is struck by his boyish quality.

Not a big man, his body still has a boy’s slim lines. He has been in charge since 1979; the business was founded by his grandfather Ole Kirk Christiansen.

It was developed into a major enterprise by his father Godtfred Kirk Christiansen. But it was Kjeld who is responsible for the group’s global expansion and its huge growth in product variety.

The Lego group is a big business that has been built out of very small components. This is a major enterprise in Billund, a tiny Jutland town.

There is a certain missionary zeal to the company.

Speaking of his products, Kristiansen says: “There are a lot worse things a child can do to prepare for life than build with Lego components.

“I believe using our products can lead a mind down orderly paths into new areas of thought and imagination. They are tools that unlock the mind”.

Yet, there is a gentle feel to the corporate hegemony. Legoland Hotel is an agreeable inn for visitors, which itself mergers into the group’s corporate headquarters.

The place seems remote from the tense atmosphere of most corporate headquarters.

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ABOUT US IN 1970s …
IN 1972, ‘IT’S TIME’ THEME BEGUN FOR THE ALP. THE ALP ISSUED PHOTOGRAPHS OF FEMALE MODELS WEARING ‘IT’S TIME’ TEE SHIRTS AND THE POLITICAL THEME WAS WELL ON ITS WAY … PMU (PICK ME UP) MARKET THE FIRST CHUNKY SOUPS … WAS IT WYNN’S, PENFOLD’S OR LINDEMAN’S WHO INTRODUCED THE WINE CASK? – A PLASTIC BAG OF WINE IN A CARDBOARD BOX WITH A TAP.
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Part of the serenity stems from another insulator: the group is closely held.

(An) assertion of the financial virtues of yesteryear is accompanied by a winsome grim and few waves of his omnipresent pipe.

Kristansen is such a formidable smoker that once he was elected Denmark’s “pipe smoker of the year”, an honour he takes with considerable amused pride.

The Lego chief executive is, in a way, his own ultimate consumer. He grew up with the product. A Lego box from around 1957 features Kjeld and his sister on the cover. As he recalls: “My father was not a man to throw money away on child models”.

Every four years, there is a … Lego Olympics. A contest which is won by a child who builds the most imaginative and technically “well-constructed” device.

The senior manager of corporate communications said “Kjeld wanders around discussing with the contestants how they did this or why they built that.

“These children know an expert when they see one. This is the Lego builder of Lego builders!”

Frank Morris comment: A British gentlemen, Hilary Fisher Page invented the brick and NOT Ole Kirk Kristiansen, the founder of the Lego Group. Page, who was in born in 1904, died before he could discover Lego has ‘borrowed’ his invention. Ole patented the now famous interlocking Lego blocks in 1949.

NEXT: FINAL. The Lego Masters.

<< The European newspaper, April 24, 1997.


Newspapers close down: The Mercury north-west and The Illawarra Mercury down south

THE MASTHEAD OF THE HUNTER RIVER GAZETTE.

INSIDE A COUNTRY NEWSPAPER. Below: THE FIRST OF THE MAITLAND MERCURY.

THE MAITLAND MERCURY, WHICH WAS THE OLDEST COUNTRY NEWSPAPER IN NSW, AND POSSIBLY AUSTRALIA, AND THE ILLAWARRA MERCURY, BOTH BORN IN 1800, DIED TOGETHER.

FRANK MORRIS

NSW goes to press. It was Thomas Strode who paved the way and a salute goes out to him. He went on to found an integral part of Australian history.

The Hunter River Gazette “appeared suddenly” outside Sydney in 1841 – Strode may be saluted for launching the first country newspaper in NSW.

He continued in the next six months performing miracles with the Gazette until the partnership with the editor embroiled him and the paper in yet another quarrel with the judiciary. Strode arranged for a dissolution to take place.

He discontinued the Gazette “ungraciously” in June 1842.

Strode and his newspaper were written into the history books, although his newspaper had only a short life. But Maitland was too important to be without a newspaper, a scribe once remarked.

The first issue of the Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser was soon manifest on January 7, 1843.
But for the profits that came from advertisements relating to the colony’s first general elections it would have sunk without trace.

Less than six months or so after the closure of The Gazette the Mercury was printed on the same equipment formerly used for the ceased newspaper.

An 1890 engraving of The Maitland Mercury shows the whole building but now only the left-hand section of the building remains as a paper store. The Mercury was not a “direct” descendant of The Gazette.

The Mercury still holds the distinction of being the oldest continuing country newspaper in NSW. It is true that The Hunter River Gazette lasted only six months, which was not long compared with its successor, The Mercury.

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ABOUT US IN 1970s …
IN 1972, WOMEN JOURNALISTS GET EQUAL RIGHTS WITH MEN AT THE JOURNALISTS CLUB IN SYDNEY AFTER A SIT-IN AT THE CLUB … PAUL HOGAN, A RIGGER FOR THE SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE, DOES A WINFIELD CIGARETTE ADVERTISEMENT WHICH STARTS THE IDEA OF OCKER-IMAGE APPEAL.
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Even after 167 years of publishing, The Maitland Mercury carries the imprimatur of being the oldest country newspaper in the State.

In the south, there is the Illawarra Mercury, which was established by Thomas Garrett and a partner in 1855. The first issue was 8 large pages in that October.

It was, initially, published as a weekly, then increased to twice weekly in 1929. Then the Depression struck, forcing the newspaper to revert to a weekly.

In 1950, it was published as a daily; this led to a change-of-name to the Illawarra Daily Mercury until 1954. In 1979, the newspaper dropped “Daily” from its masthead and it joined the class of the other ‘metropolitan’ daily papers.
It amalgamated with the Bulli Times and Port Kembla Pilot in 1949; and the South Coast Times in 1968.

In 1981, the paper invested in a new off-set press that allowed it to bring life to you in full colour; and other implements that enhance its newspaper production.  It was also the first newspaper in Australia to install the state-of-the-art Itex 210K scanner.   

Fairfax, a major shareholder in 2012, relocated reproduction and other strands of sub-editing and page layouts of the paper to New Zealand.

FLASHBACK: A COLLECTOR HOLDS UP THE ‘MOON DAY’ SOUVENIER EDITION OF THE 1963 ILLAWARRA MERCURY.

<< Airlines Magazine, November, 1991; and The Influential Communicator for background.


OZ SPOT: Ali “has Parkinson’s disease”

ALI: “I AM THE GREATEST”.

IN 1984, A NEWSPAPER REPORT SAID THE FORMER WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION MUHAMMAD ALI HAS “MINOR SYMPTOMS” OF PARKINSON’S DISEASE. RESULTS OF THESE TESTS LAST WEEK IN NEW YORK WERE SHOWN TO A DOCTOR TRAVELLING WITH THE BOXER IN EUROPE HAVE BEEN REVEALED. BIRGITT WOLFF, WHO INTERVIEWED DR MARTIN ECKER AND ALI QUOTED ALI AS SAYING “I ALWAYS FEEL TIRED BUT DON’T FEEL PAIN AT ALL. I DON’T KNOW EXACTLY WHAT IT IS”. – FM.

GRAND YEARS WILL BE PUBLISHED ON MAY 15.

Posted in: Grand Years with Frank Morris at 29 April 20

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