Posted on April 10, 2012
In 1932, Ole Kirk Christiansen started making wooden toys in a small workship in Billund, Denmark. In 1934, amid a world-wide Great Depression, he named his LEGO, which was a contraction of the Danish words ‘leg godt’, meaning play well. LEGO also means “I put together” or “I assemble” in Latin.
I stole all of this information from the Legoland website, which came to my attention because I took my son there yesterday. It was an interesting trip, a well-run park, with ample opportunities for plenty of shopping opportunities for 6 year olds everywhere.
Legoland is owned by the Merlin Entertainment Group. In case you didn’t know, the Merlin Entertainment Group is the second largest owner of theme parks in the world. A U.K. based company, Merlin Entertainment is kind of a big deal in Europe, especially Great Britain, but it also has a big and growing presence in the United States.
Legoland is only part of the story. It also owns Madame Tussauds and a bunch of other theme parks like Sea Life Centers.
The Merlin Entertainment Group is a perfect example of the positive impact of the global economy and, may I dare say, private equity.
Blackstone is a part owner of the Merlin Entertainment Group, and I think it is fair to say, without an infusion of their cash, there wouldn’t be much of a chance that my son could enjoy his Ninjago back-pack or his Ninjago model toys.
And I certain that the middle aged guys who were working (and seemingly enjoying themselves) at Legoland probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work there either.
I doubt that Old Kirk Christiansen envisioned the vast complex of rides, shops and miniature cities at the Legoland Complex when he first put his little toy woodshop together in Depression-era Denmark 80 years ago. But if you go to Legoland, you can see the full flowering of his creation in the eyes of the 6 year olds who go there everyday.