Playmobil Founder, Horst Brandstatter, Dies

horst brandsetterFRANKFURT—Horst Brandstätter, the man behind Germany’s popular Playmobil figures, died on June 3 following a short illness. He was 81.

Known by most as "Mr. Playmobil," and employees by "HOB"  Brandstätter was working right until the end and would come into the Playmobil offices each day.

Brandstätter entered the family business in 1952, aged 19, and trained as a mold maker. His two uncles were managing the company at the time. It was not long until he realized that the machines and working methods were out of date. At the age of 21, and as a joint shareholder, he started to change the “We’ve always done it that way” mentality within the company.

His innovative spirit paid off for the Brandstätter Company. In 1958 the production of hula hoops became a sales hit throughout Europe.

During the oil crisis of the early 1970s Brandstätter asked his master mold maker, Hans Beck, who passed away in 2009, to develop a completely new toy system which could be continually expanded. His specification was to achieve the maximum amount of play value for the minimum amount of plastic. The result were three 2¾-inch figures: a knight, a construction worker and a Native American. Playmobil was born. The figures were first introduced at the 1974 Toy Fair.

“Their success at that time saved us from bankruptcy,” said Brandstätter. “People seeing the Playmobil figure for the first time are usually unimpressed; it looks so simple. Adults don’t immediately see the value of Playmobil. Its appeal is in the stories which it triggers in children’s heads.”

He was no sole owner of Brandstätter, and Playmobil helped the company become Germany’s top-selling toy manufacturer. Today there are more than 370 different figures, 839 faces and 68 beards with more than 21 million potential combinations. 

Proof of Brandstätter’s talent for looking ahead and making his visions become reality can also be seen in the Lechuza brand, which he established in 2000 as the second pillar of his company. Under this brand name geobra Brandstätter develops and produces plastic planters with soil watering systems and German-made garden furniture.

Until the end,  Brandstätter was not thinking about retirement but was more concerned about his company and more than 4,000 employees worldwide. “I have established a corporate foundation which will take over from me as proprietor,” he said. “This charitable foundation supports children. The future of the company is thus secure, and at the same time I know that it will be managed according to my wishes.”

In May 2013,  Brandstätter opened the Playmobil Logistics Centre in Herrieden, a $150 million investment. When almost all the toy industry moved production to Asia, he opted for a collaborative production network in Europe, including the company’s largest facility is situated in Dietenhofen in Bavaria, with additional manufacturing sites in Malta, the Czech Republic and Spain. Brandstätter was adamant about retaining control over the quality and safety of his products, according to the company.

Brandstätter lived in Zirndorf, Germany, and had also had a home in Florida where he spent winters golfing. He was honored with Germany's Federal Cross of Merit in 1993 and recently became a member of the Toy Industry Association's Hall of Fame in 2014.

He is survived by two sons, Klaus Brandstätter, 61, and Conny Brandstätter, 59.

Playthings Staff | Playthings Staff

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