Friday, March 12, 2010

A Lucky Man

When we wrote "The Toy and Game Inventors Handbook", we touched briefly on some families that founded or had significant impact on the growth of toy companies like the Hassenfelds, Pressmans and Sheas. There was an oversight I see now that should have been included. That is Les Berger for his founding and continuous involvement with Cardinal Industries.

Now, 66 years after Les (Laszlo) Berger used his knowledge of plastics to turn out Mah Jongg set, dominoes, poker chips and dice, the company, which has become one of the largest game manufacturers in the world, is still run under his influence and that of his wife, Sylvia. Son, Joel Berger, and son-in-law, Scott Canner, lead the sales efforts that each year sell Cardinal products into all national accounts. Daughter, Bonnie Canner, heads a robust and productive development program which every Toy Fair introduces attractive and highly salable additions to the Cardinal line. Together they have built the company to where it is today.

In some ways, Les Berger's story is the most compelling of toy company founders. He left his family in pre-war Hungary as a young man landing in the USA with little financial assets but with strong ingenuity, personal drive, and business acumen. Like any company hoping to sustain business, Les Berger changed his company's direction at key times expanding core products to include imported toys and licensed television shows and brands for the Cardinal game line. Today, those licenses include properties like Disney, Nickelodeon, Sesame Street, Marvel, Fox's Glee and others found on a variety of Cardinal puzzles and games.

Les Berger and his wife remain active today in the business that he readily admits has given his family much happiness and success. His hope is that new generations of the Berger and Canner families will stay in the business he founded and has guided over a long career. He wrote a short book entitled, The Saga of a Lucky Man, which chronicles his travels leading up to and through his years in the toy business. With his 66 years in the industry, he may consider himself a lucky man, but the industry should consider itself lucky to have his family as a part of the toy and game industry.


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