by David Yeh | 12 Oct 2022
Biographies and Interviews
David Yeh – “Visionary Business Man and Relentless Dreamer”
SEP 3, 1929 - SEP 22, 2022
David Yeh was born in Shanghai in 1929 and moved to Hong Kong when he was only 18 years old. His first jobs were as a bank teller and then head of the plastics department for a Dutch manufacturing company. In the mid-1950’s, David was introduced to Louis Marx, the US toy king, who hired him as the first manager of Louis Marx (HK) Ltd. Thus began David’s lifelong love of the toy business and his exceptional journey of success.
In 1964, he left Louis Marx and founded Universal International Group and under his leadership it became one of the largest toy makers in Asia by the end of the decade. David was a pioneer of toy manufacturing in Hong Kong, China, Macau and Taiwan.
In 1977, David made the visionary decision to move beyond solely the manufacturing of toys when he formed Kidco Toys to market his Universal products directly to retailers in the US. A year later he expanded his US operations with the purchase of 80% of LJNToys.
David’s ambitions for growth were further fueled with Universal ‘s bold acquisition of Matchbox Toys in 1982, which, at the time, was the largest toy company listed in UK and had business units across Europe, Oceana and Asia. Four years later, Universal Matchbox became the first ever Hong Kong company to list on the New York Stock Exchange.
David led the Universal Matchbox Group until its sale to Tyco in 1992.
In 1996, David was recognized with the “Hong Kong Toy Industry Outstanding Achievement Award” for his contributions to the Hong Kong toy industry.
For over 40 years, David had a profound impact on the global toy industry. He was a visionary businessman, a relentless dreamer, generous philanthropist and a mentor to many.
Beyond his successful business and family life, David loved to sing, wooing many a crowd with his debonair style, salt and pepper hair and infectious enthusiasm. He even recorded an album of love songs after he retired. David was truly the ultimate Renaissance man.
“We have lost a giant of our industry with the passing of David Yeh. Not only was David a visionary pioneer in the development of toy manufacturing in China, he was a great leader, mentor and friend.” -Alan Hassenfeld, Chairman Emeritus of Hasbro, Inc
“My first memory of David Yeh was in the late 70’s at a toy industry fund raising dinner for Brandeis university where he stood up, marched to the front of the room and made a sizeable contribution.
Over the following years our friendship grew when he was a manufacturing vendor for Mattel and when he hired me as CEO of Universal Matchbox.
David was a toy industry giant, who belongs in the Toy Industry Hall of Fame for his over 40 years of meaningful contributions to our industry and his generous philanthropy.” -Tom Kalinske, Member of Toy Industry Hall of Fame
“ David was a business visionary …in the vanguard of HK entrepreneurs in the 70’s who decided they wanted to be brand owners and not just factory owners . He was an inspiration to work for… brimming with ideas, a real eye for product and innovation and a prolific networker .. he knew everyone and was highly respected for everything he achieved.” -Nick Austin, Founder Vivid Imaginations
“I had the great fortune of travelling the world with David when I worked at Matchbox. Our adventures together were filled with priceless learning experiences that changed my life. David was a great mentor who loved to see his people grow and progress in the toy business. He was well respected across the world and he had a deep passion for the industry.” -John Barbour, Volta Capital
“David was a true visionary and change agent who demonstrated to the global toy industry that Hong Kong makers could also successfully create, market and sell their own brands in overseas markets. “ -Charles Ip, CEO, JDH Souorcing Management Ltd. and Nippon Toys, Ltd.
“David will not only be remembered as a pioneer and leader in the toy industry, but also for the roles that were so meaningful and gave him so much pride: as a husband, father, friend, mentor and philanthropist to so many less fortunate. He was motivating and always an inspiration” -Angela Gardner, Castlespring Enterprises Ltd
“David achieved sublime success and made a great contribution to the toy industry Without doubt, he was a pioneer in the toy community. He is one that we will always respect and learn from. All the great things he has devoted to the toy industry and his well-deserved fame will forever be remembered.” -Rosa and CK Yeung, Blue Box Ltd
“He will be long remembered among us all, especially those in the toy industry. As a mentor and pioneer of the Hong Kong toy industry he led us into the global market. He changed the world’s feelings about our capability. With his aspiration and leadership the local industry grew and became the largest toy manufacturing base in the world.” -Linda and Lawrence Chan, Wynnewood Corporation Ltd.
“David will be remembered by the industry as an outstanding visionary and successful leader, by his team as a mentor and a benevolent fatherly leader and by his friends as a jolly good fellow.” -Catherine and TS Wong, Jetta Company Ltd
“David did the impossible in the industry. He was the first Chinese man to acquire a well-known international brands, Matchbox. He led a Chinese company to the next level, competing with the major toy brands.” - Christine and Samson Chan, Manley Toys
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