COMPANY HISTORY (1982- 1992)

(Reproduced with permission from Charlie Mack's book Universal's Matchbox Toys -- The Universal years, 1982 - 1992)

It was the end of an era. Lesney Products, in business since 1947, had gone bankrupt on June 11, 1982. On that day, R.D. Agutter and G.T.E. Ped joint receivers. The company was reformed as "Matchbox Toys Ltd." and was looking for a buyer. Both Fisher Price and Mattel were interested but Universal Toys, owned by David Yeh, came up as the buyer on September 24, 1982. It took several years for "Lesney Products" to be removed from all the molds. Both the miniatures and Yesteryears especially carried on the Lesney name up until 1985!

Jack Odell, one of the founders of Lesney Products, bought much of the Lesney tooling and machinery and began his own new diecast company called "Lledo" (Odell spelled backwards.)

In 1977, Kidco toys was formed to market Universal Toys in the U.S. and was merged with Matchbox in the early 1980's. In 1978 Universal bought 80% of LJN Toys of New York. When Matchbox was bought by Universal, the entire Kidco and LJN lines were marketed as Matchbox products in Europe. In 1980, the Universal Group bought space in Macau for a company called "Macau Toys Ltd." and in 1981 "Macau Diecasting Toys Ltd." was also formed.

Within three months of the Lesney takeover, much of the tooling for Matchbox Toys began moving to Macau with the first macau-made Matchbox being seen in May, 1983. It was decided though to retain production in Rochford, England. In 1985 however, even the Yesteryear production moved to Macau.

In 1986, Matchbox began negotiations with Kenner Parker to buy the Dinky trademark. By 1987, the deal was consummated. To protect the Dinkey trademark, six miniatures were produced in special versions and packaged in Dinky blisterpacks. In 1989, the first Dinky prototypes were shown at toy fairs in the U.K.

Matchbox Toys was not just a diecast toy company. Many "unusual" products started appearing with the Matchbox brand through the 1980's. Dolls continued to be manufactured with stuffed animals being produced also. In 1988, Matchbox hit a licensing winner with their Pee Wee Herman line in the United States. In 1989, Matchbox hit upon their most controversial offering, a Freddy Kreuger talking doll. Freddy was the star character of the Nightmare on elm Street movies. due to parental and religious groups requests, Freddy soon disappeared from the shelves. As the 1990s hit, Matchbox was taking a down-turn, probably due to the fact that the line had expand into too many different areas not all of them moneymakers. By early 1992, David Yeh, chairman of Universal Toys, began shopping around the company to larger toy companies for a buy-out. An another earmark in Matchbox history, in May of 1992 Tyco Toys gave their intentions to buy Universal Group. After several months of negotiations it was officials, on October 2, 1992 Tyco Toys now owned Matchbox Toys.

What happened next, please continue to read in the 1992-94 section.

G Book

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