Lesney was founded in 1947 by Leslie Smith and Rodney Smith. The company's name was derived from a combination of Leslie and Rodney's names. Lesney started off as a die-cast parts manufacturer and they were soon joined by John also known as "Jack" Odell who later went on to found Lledo.
The company faced periods of slumping sales at times and was eventually asked to make parts for a toy gun. Soon, they realized that manufacturing toys could be a profitable venture and the first die-cast model toys were released a year later.
Die-cast model cars proved to be popular with customers. The major turning point for the company was the launch of Matchbox. The concept for a Matchbox car was devised by Odell, who wanted to make a scaled down model toy for his daughter who was not allowed to bring any toys to school that were larger than a matchbox. Thus, the Matchbox brand was born and grew to become the most popular product line ever released by the company.
After many years of success, Lesney suffered with poor economic conditions and increasing competition. By 1982, the company was bankrupt and became a division of Universal Holdings/ Universal Toys. Lesney was removed from the title and the division was renamed Matchbox International Limited. By 1996, Matchbox became a division of Mattel, the current owner of the brand.
The above text uses material from the Wikipedia article "Lesney Products" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
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