Lego saviour Jørgen Vig Knudstorp moves on to build global brand

Bali Padda to become first non-Dane to lead company his predecessor takes new role seeking worldwide growth

The man credited with reviving Lego’s fortunes is stepping down as chief executive after more than a decade to take on a new branding role as the Danish toymaker seeks international expansion.

Jørgen Vig Knudstorp will be replaced on 1 January by Bali Padda, Lego’s British chief operations officer and the first non-Dane to lead the 84-year-old company.

Knudstorp, 48, will head the newly created Lego brand group as the toymaker looks to expand overseas. He was appointed chief executive in 2004, overseeing a transformative period when Lego’s losses turned into profit and revenue increased five-fold to 35.8bn kroner (£4.1bn) in 2015.

Under his leadership, Lego sold controlling stakes in its Legoland theme parks, expanded its franchise deals with Lego sets based on Hollywood films such as Star Wars, and introduced the Lego Friends range, aimed at girls. It also made a successful foray into cinema with The Lego Movie.

Lego is a privately owned company based in Billund, Denmark. It is controlled by the founding Kristensen family, which has a 75% stake.

Jørgen Vig Knudstorp
Outgoing CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp Photograph: Tobias Nikolai/AP

Thomas Kirk Kristiansen, great grandson of Lego’s founder, will become deputy chair of the new brand group. He said: “Our family ownership is deeply rooted in the Lego idea, which is about learning and development through play ... With our recent growth and globalisation come new and exciting opportunities for the brand, and we establish the Lego brand group to look into these new opportunities.”

Padda, 60, has been with Lego for 14 years and is currently responsible for operations, people, and organisational development.

“He has a deep knowledge of our entire company, a very clear sense of what we need to do to take the company to the next level, and he is a true ambassador for [Lego],” Kristiansen said.

Padda said there was still a lot of untapped opportunity for Lego, where 60% to 70% of products are new every year. “There are millions of children around the world that do not have access to the product,” he added.

He said targets for expansion include China, where Lego last month opened a new factory in Jiaxing to supply toys to markets across Asia. The plant is expected to produce between 70% and 80% of all Lego products sold in the region.

Knudstorp will also become chairman of Lego’s board in May 2017.


Angela Monaghan

The GuardianTramp

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