Toy business Simba Dickie began after something of a mini disaster that was a source of important lessons for the company. In the 70s, Michael Sieber — along with his father Fritz — decided to raise some capital by selling 60% of their then business to a Dutch stock-listed holding company. In the changes that followed, there was a clash in the boardroom. “My father was used to deciding everything by himself and was a real self-starter — very strong and independent,” Michael says. “After the Second World War he started a business by himself and created and developed a wooden toy factory. This didn’t sit well with an international stock-listed company with all the regulations and meetings and everything else. His international vision of a common European market was a good idea — and we did need some support from big companies to create that, and to build up the network — but in the end it didn’t work.”
Michael and his father offloaded their remaining 40% stake to start a new business on their own as equal partners. “In May 1982 we started Simba Toys from scratch, with a strong network of connections with partners that we knew we could rely on, particularly in Germany, but also internationally. And we also had the knowledge gained from many years of toy manufacturing and toy development.”
Slightly scarred from the Dutch experience, Michael’s father insisted that the new company remain a small, independent, family-run entity. In the first year, the business did well. It was developing product in Germany and then having it made in Eastern Europe through its established relationships in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria. However, Michael’s entrepreneurial spirit meant he couldn’t rest. He knew that businesses that stand still eventually go backwards, and that controlled and measured growth was a necessity.