After decades as head of the Lego dynasty, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen has set about handing over the reins to his son. A generational change is set in motion.
COPENHAGEN. The richest man in Denmark, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen (67), is about to hand over key positions and the final word at the global toy group Lego to his son.
The generational change has been under preparation internally for almost a decade, and research made at Berlingske Business show it has now moved to the decisive stage where important positions at the board, the power and the billions are shifted about.
The many employees of the toy group has been notified that the head of the family is about to retire from the work of a lifetime.
“It has been communicated internally that a generational change is gradually going on,” says Lego CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp to Berlingske Business.
The CEO further confirms that the heir and replacement has been found: It is the second of Kirk Kristiansen’s three children, Thomas Kirk Kristiansen (36), who has agreed to take over after his father who is currently vice chairman of the Board of Lego.
No more horsing around
Thomas Kirk Kristiansen has primarily been engaged in his own stud farm, Kirk Arabians, and he has no business experience from trade or industry. After a thorough apprenticeship, however, he is now ready to play a major role in the toy group which is among the largest in the industry.
“Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen has held positions in a number of the companies, but we are now in the middle of a transition where Thomas Kirk Kristiansen will one by one take over these positions,” says Jørgen Vig Knudstorp who is confident at the prospect of working together with the Lego heir.
“Thomas has a profound insight into the business,” says Knudstorp who also discloses that the two men are in a dialogue on the core decisions of management.
In May 2015, Thomas Kirk Kristiansen took over his father’s chair in the important Lego Juris Ltd., the subsidiary owning Lego’s valuable trademark. He is also a board member at Lego Limited and a qualified guess is that he will be named vice chairman of the Lego board before his father turns 70.
“Well, Kjeld is born in 1947, so in a few years he’ll turn 70. And while there is no age limit at Lego as such, we have agreed internally, that we are in the process of a gradual generation change,” says Knudstorp.
Quite the family business
A large part of the Lego family’s fortune has been continuously transferred to Thomas Kirk Kristiansen and his two sisters. However, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen has kept the bulk of the preferred stock with enhanced voting rights in the family’s holding company, Kirkbi Ltd., which owns 75 percent of Lego.
The family behind Lego is, according to Berlingske Business Magasin, the wealthiest in Denmark with an estimated fortune of 122,7 billion DKK (USD 18,6 billion).
English translation: Lars Rosenkvist