Horst Brandstätter, who turned his family's plastics company into the global giant of toy figurines Playmobil, died June 3 at the age of 81.
He began working for Geobra Brandstätter Stiftun & Co. KG in Zirndorf, Germany, at the age of 19, training as a mold maker. By the time he was 21 — as a shareholder — he began pushing for innovations at the firm then run by his uncles, the company said in a statement.
In 1958, the company's production of hula hoops became a hit throughout Europe.
By the 1970s, as an oil embargo threatened supplies of the raw materials for plastics, Brandstätter asked his master mold maker, Hans Beck, to create a new toy system which could be easily expanded while allowing for “the maximum amount of play value for the minimum amount of plastic.”
Brandstätter Group introduced the 7.5 centimeter Playmobil toy figurines in 1974, starting with three characters: a knight, a construction worker and a native American.
“People seeing the Playmobil figure for the first time are usually unimpressed,” he later said. “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.”
In 2014, Brandstätter Group posted global sales of 595 million euros ($670 million) and has more than 4,000 employees.
It has manufacturing in Germany, with its largest facility in Dietenhofen, as well as in Malta, the Czech Republic and Spain.
In addition to Playmobil, the group launched the Lechuza brand in 2000, making premium plastic planters with soil watering systems and German-made garden furniture.