Lego replaces long-time CEO with first foreign boss in organizational shake-up

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Danish toymaker Lego is to appoint its first foreign CEO and give its family owners a bigger role in developing the Lego brand under an organizational shake-up that will see incumbent Jorgen Vig Knudstorp step down by the end of the year.

Briton Bali Padda, currently chief operations officer, will replace Knudstorp, who was the first chief executive from outside the Kristiansen clan, Denmark's richest family. He has led the company through a turnaround since his appointment in 2004, a year after the company flirted with bankruptcy.

Knudstorp will head up the company's new Lego Brand Group, while the owner family will become active in brand-related activities, including the group's stake in Merlin Entertainments, operator of the Legoland theme parks, and in Lego Education used in schools.

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Lego, with revenues of 35.8 billion Danish crowns ($5.2 billion) last year, is vying with Barbie doll maker Mattel to become the world's biggest toymaker, helped by its push into movie franchises, video games and smartphone applications.

The company said its new brand group will help it reap "untapped potential in the LEGO brand."

"With our recent growth and globalization come new and exciting opportunities for the brand, and we establish the LEGO Brand Group to look into these new opportunities," says Thomas Kirk Kristiansen, fourth generation owner of the LEGO Group.

Under extrovert, quirky CEO Knudstorp, Lego overtook My Little Pony producer Hasbro to become the world's second-largest toy company.

After taking over in 2004, he set about reviving Lego's core business, by firing consultants and hiring new designers to come up with higher-margin products that were up to date but still looked like Lego, an abbreviation of the Danish "leg godt", meaning "play well".

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