Lego Makes Sudden Switch of CEO

On Thursday Lego abruptly made a change at the top by replacing CEO Bali Padda following just eight months with the reins, replacing the Briton who is 61 with a younger industrialist from Denmark. Lego is battling to become the biggest toymaker in the world.

The Danish company announced that it appointed Niels Christiansen, who is 51, as its new CEO. He joins Lego following 9 years as the Danfoss CEO, where by putting focus on the digitalization he grew sales and turned the company into a leader in the world in energy efficiency.

Lego is hoping that Christiansen is able to revive its slowing growth through upping its sales across Asia and embracing fully today’s digital era.

After flirting with filing bankruptcy following 2000, Lego experienced a decade of strong growth under Jorgen Vig Knudstrop’s leadership, who is currently the chairman of the company, which is family owned and is the maker of distinctive building bricks made of plastic that generations and generations of children have loved.

When the market for toys shrank following the worldwide financial crisis, Lego went against the trend by signing with movies series such as Harry Potter, Indiana Jones and Star Wars in deals that span video games, Lego sets, smartphone apps and movie franchises.

However, while Lego now is battling with Mattel the maker of the Barbie doll, to be the largest toy maker in the world, growth of revenue slowed from a 2015 high of 25% to only 6% in 2016 with sales in Danish crowns of 37.9 billion equal to $6 billion.

Padda, a veteran at Lego and the first CEO of the company who is not a Dane, took over for Danish national Knudstorp, who had been overseeing sales increases annually of over 15% and made the plastic building bricks maker the most profitable toymaker in the world.

Lego was founded by Ole Kirk Kristiansen in 1932, and his grandson Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen remains the main representative of the family at Lego.

Before being CEO at Danfoss, Christiansen was the head of GN Store Nord a hearing aid company. He has been a member of the board of directors at Danske Bank, Bang & Olufsen and A.P. Moller-Maersk.

Knudstorp told reporters that Christiansen was able to transform a tradition, industrial business into a tech leader. He added that his experience in localization and digitalization would help to improve efficiency and products at Lego.

Padda will hold a special advisory role in the Lego Brand Group that is headed by Knudstorp.