Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Spin Master CEO Anton Rabie holds a Rubik’s Cube in Toronto on Oct. 26, 2020.

Mark Blinch/The Globe and Mail

On paper, the Rubik’s Cube doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun: It was first patented as a “spatial logic toy," and the puzzle was so frustrating that its own inventor was unable to solve it for more than a month. But nearly 40 years after the Cube’s global launch, Toronto-based Spin Master Corp. is paying roughly US$50-million to acquire Britain-based Rubik’s Brand Ltd., which owns the rights to the toy phenomenon.

Spin Master, which already owns toy and entertainment brands including Paw Patrol, Gund, Bakugan and Etch A Sketch, announced its acquisition of Rubik’s Brand on Tuesday.

“It’s kind of a pinch-me moment, to be able to buy Rubik’s Cube,” Anton Rabie, Spin Master’s chairman, co-founder and co-chief executive officer, said in an interview. “We love the global nature of it. We’re really expanding our games business globally, and this gives us a lot of leverage.”

Story continues below advertisement

While interest in the cube has gone up and down over the decades, it has been growing in recent years. Rubik’s Brand now sells between five million and 10 million units per year across its range of toys – which includes the original cube as well as variations (such as a pyramid, Rubik’s-theme board games, a simplified two-by-two-square version, and more diabolical five-by-fives). Since its inception, Rubik’s has sold more than 450 million units around the world.

The original cube was invented behind the Iron Curtain in 1974, when Hungarian architecture professor Erno Rubik was looking for a way to teach his students about three-dimensional movement. He called it the “Buvos Kocka” or Magic Cube. The toy did not launch globally until 1980, after toy marketer Tom Kremer saw it at the Nuremberg International Toy Fair, signed a worldwide distribution licence and convinced the American toy distributor Ideal Toy Co. to release it more widely.

Ideal’s marketing strategy was to play up how difficult the puzzle was to solve. (“I had trouble with it,” the Spin Master chairman admits.) Millions of customers took the bait, and the cube became a full-blown fad. It also spawned plenty of fakes.

“We have no concern about the knockoffs,” Mr. Rabie said. “The brand name is so strong, people want the brand even if you put it next to a counterfeit on the shelf.”

Privately held Rubik’s Brand contacted Spin Master in January as it began looking for a buyer. Since then, puzzle sales have surged as lockdowns during the novel coronavirus pandemic kept people at home and looking for entertainment.

Games, puzzles, activities and plush toys accounted for 27 per cent of Spin Master’s gross product sales last year, and have risen to 30 per cent because of increased demand during the pandemic.

Puzzle sales rose 109 per cent in Canada from March to September compared to the same period last year, according to research firm the NPD Group Inc. However, NPD says sales in the “brain teaser” category, which includes games such as Rubik’s Cube, have declined so far this year by 17 per cent. According to Rubik’s Brand, however, the worldwide demand for its products has surged during the pandemic.

Story continues below advertisement

“We were already on a growth trajectory. But we have seen quite a significant impact over the past few months," said Rubik’s Brand CEO Christoph Bettin. While some see the brand as a throwback – “I remember that” and “Is that still around?” are common reactions Mr. Bettin hears when people find out where he works – it continues to have appeal, he said. This summer, Netflix launched a short documentary, The Speed Cubers, about the world of competitive Rubik’s Cube solvers.

Mr. Bettin was brought in to lead the company in early 2019, after European private-equity firm Bancroft Investment bought a minority stake. The Kremer family and Mr. Rubik are shareholders as well, and will continue to consult with Spin Master on the business.

The Canadian company has continued to work with other founders of brands it has acquired, including Gund and Hedbanz, Mr. Rabie said. The goal for Rubik’s Brand is to continue to grow the business, including developing more digital game options. The company has only “dipped its toe” into digital gaming thus far, Mr. Bettin said.

After the deal closes, the Rubik’s Brand operations will move from their current headquarters in London to the Long Island City, N.Y., office where Spin Master’s games team is based. The transaction is expected to close in early January.

“We believe 50 years from now, it will be as popular as it is today,” Mr. Rabie said.

Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies