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# 368 Kjeld Kristiansen $5.25B

Random fact: Struck licensing deal to produce Star Wars-themed products.

Overview

Kristiansen is the chairman of Kirkbi, a family holding company that owns 75% of Lego, Europe's largest toymaker. The Billund, Denmark-based company makes more than 60 billion toy pieces annually and had revenue of more than $5.8 billion in 2018. Kirkbi also owns half of Merlin Entertainments Group.

As of :
Last change -$20.8M ( -0.4%)
YTD change +$799M ( +17.9%)
Industry Consumer
Biggest asset Lego
Citizenship Denmark
Age 71
Wealth Inherited
View net worth over:   Max 1 year 1 quarter 1 month 1 week

Relative Value

Kjeld Kristiansen's net worth of $5.25B can buy ...

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troy ounces of gold
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of the total wealth of the 500 richest people in the world
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of the top 100 U.S. college endowments
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of U.S. existing home sales
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Latest News

Net Worth Summary

Cash
Private asset
Public asset
Misc. liabilities
Confidence rating:

The majority of Kristiansen's fortune is derived from his 18.8% economic interest in Lego. His stake in the closely held company is controlled through Kirkbi, a Billund, Denmark-based holding company.

Kirkbi owns 75% of Lego, according to its 2018 annual report. Kristiansen and each of his three adult children own 25% of Kirkbi, according to the group's spokeswoman, Ulla Lundhus. Prior to March 8, 2018, Kristiansen was assumed in this analysis to have a 51 percent stake in the company. His stake was lowered to 25% on this date leading to a $7.1 billion decrease in the net worth calculation.

Lego had revenue of 36 billion Danish krone ($5.8 billion) in 2018, according to its annual report. Its valuation is based on the average enterprise value-to-sales and price-to-earnings multiples of one peer company: Hasbro.

Kirkbi also half of Merlin Entertainments Group, according to a June 2019 press release announcing Kirkbi's involvement in a planned privatization of Merlin. Its other holdings include Matas, ISS, NKT Holding and Nilfisk Holding.

Kristiansen receives licensing fees and dividends from Lego, according to its annual report. The value of his cash holdings and closely held investments are based on an analysis of dividends, market performance, insider transactions, taxes and charitable contributions. An outflow is included for a $450 million payment he made in 2007 for his sister’s 20% stake in Lego. His liabilities include his share of Kirkbi's debt to Lego, as detailed in the 2018 annual report.

Lego spokesman Roar Rude Trangbaek said Kristiansen declined to comment on his net worth.

Biography

Birthdate: 12/27/1947
Family: Married, 3 children
Education: Aarhus University, University of Lausanne

Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen was born in Billund, Denmark in 1947, 15 years after his carpenter grandfather, Ole Kirk Kristiansen, founded Lego. As a child, Kjeld tested new Lego models and concepts made by his grandfather and appeared on the company's packaging. He studied at Aarhus University's School of Business on the east coast of Denmark and completed his MBA at the IMD business school in Switzerland in 1972.

He joined Lego's management board in 1974, and soon developed the first Lego figurines that were the predecessor of the iconic mini-figures first released in 1979. That same year, he became president and chief executive officer of the company.

Kristiansen oversaw the expansion of Legoland theme parks in the 1990s, adding operations in the U.K., Germany and the U.S. He also began the practice of licensing branding rights from moviemakers, which led to the release of Star Wars-themed building sets in 1999. The company also expanded into computer games, films and clothing. He became chairman of Kirkbi, the investment company that holds his family's 75 percent stake in Lego, in 1996.

By 2004, disappointing sales and competition from Hasbro and Mega Bloks saw Lego post its third annual loss in five years. Kristiansen implemented a turnaround plan, shedding 1,000 jobs and pruning product lines, before stepping aside. He served as first deputy chairman of Lego until April 2016, when he announced his son, Thomas, would succeed him in the role as the first step towards a "smooth generational handover." Thomas also assumed his father's position as chairman of The Lego Foundation, which owns 25 percent of the toymaker.

Lego sold its 70 percent economic interest in its theme park business to private equity firm Blackstone in 2005, according to a July 13, 2005 Bloomberg News report. Kirkbi took an initial 15 percent stake in the newly formed Merlin Entertainments Group, which was increased to 36 percent in 2010. The company listed on the London Stock Exchange in November 2013. Kirkbi retains a 30 percent stake.

The billionaire, who remains chairman of Kirkbi, is married with three children and lives in Denmark.

Milestones
  • 1971 Finishes undergraduate studies at Denmark's Aarhus University.
  • 1972 Completes MBA at the IMD business school in Lausanne, Switzerland.
  • 1978 Lego mini-figures appear for first time and are best sellers.
  • 1996 Named chairman of Kirkbi, the holding company for his investments.
  • 1999 Lego brick named "Toy of the Century" by Fortune magazine.
  • 2004 Steps aside as CEO and president as loss of $330 million announced.
  • 2005 Private equity firm buys Lego's theme parks for $457 million.
  • 2011 Rearranges family stakes, leaving himself holding 51 percent of Lego.