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Canadian company that owns classic toys Etch A Sketch and Aerobie buys Rubik's Cube for $50M

Canada's biggest toy company is adding to its chest of nostalgic toys with a $50 million purchase of the iconic puzzle game Rubik's Cube.

Game invented in 1974 went on to sell hundreds of millions of units

Erno Rubik holds up the iconic children's toy he invented in 1974. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters)

Spin Master is adding to its toy chest again.

The Toronto-based company said Tuesday it will pay $50 million for Rubik's Cube, the iconic game that has captivated and confounded millions of people since it was invented nearly 50 years ago.

Hungarian inventor Ernő Rubik created the game of coloured blocks that need to be sorted in 1974 before it launched globally in 1980 and went on to sell hundreds of millions of units.

For those who've never seen one, a Rubik's cube is essentially 27 small coloured cubes stacked together into a larger cube form, all of which rotate around a central core.

The cube starts with all one colour on each of its six outer faces, and the challenge is in spinning the cubes around and then trying to get the colours back to their original configuration. It sounds simple enough, but as anyone who has ever tried and failed to solve one can attest to: it is not.

The inventor says the cube has attracted more attention than he ever imagined.

"It is a curious fact — one that surprises me as much as anyone — that for so many decades during a time of an unprecedented technological revolution, fascination with such a simple low-tech object has survived," Rubik wrote in Cubed: The Puzzle of Us All.

Popularity in pandemic not so puzzling

Independent toy analyst Chris Byrne says toys like Rubik's cube are enjoying a resurgence in popularity because of the pandemic that has kept hundreds of millions of people around the world at home, and has parents scrambling to find entertainment options that aren't electronic screens.

"You're seeing all kinds of things out there that are providing learning," he said in an interview. "It's not ABCs and one, two threes it's actually problem solving and dimensional thinking — things that are the building blocks for things later on but that are actually fun," he said.

Canadian participants practice before competing at the World Rubik's Cube Championships in France in 2017. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters)

He said the deal is a savvy move for both sides.

"It is very stable, it's a globally known brand, it's a nice thing to add to their games portfolio — I think they got a great deal," he said. "I's a well known iconic brand that hasn't had a lot of effort behind it [but] they are going to put a lot of marketing muscle behind it," he said.

"A whole new generation of kids are going to find it fascinating."

Founded by three friends in 1994, Spin Master went public on the TSX and quickly began an aggressive strategy of acquiring other toy brands. 

The Rubik's Cube purchase comes after takeovers of similarly iconic toys of yore, including Etch A Sketch, plush toy company Gund, and flying disc Aerobie.

In addition to those nostalgic brands, Spin Master also owns modern brands such as Paw Patrol and Hatchimals.

The deal is the 12th acquisition since Spin Master went public five years ago.

 

With files from The Canadian Press and the CBC's Meegan Read

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