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Chris HaneySTAFF

Chris Haney, the onetime Montreal Gazette photo editor who parlayed an idea sketched out on barroom napkins into one of the most successful board games in history - Trivial Pursuit -- has died in Toronto at the age of 59 after a long illness.

In Dec., 1979, Christopher Haney, a Welland, Ont. native, and his Canadian Press colleague, sportswriter Scott Abbott, drafted the rough concept of a trivia-based board game over beer, during a lunch-hour game of Scrabble. They later rounded up some 32 small investors, who paid as little as $1,000, and used the proceeds to create a test-market version of the game. All of those early investors subsequently grew rich on the annual royalties.

The first 1,100 copies of Trivial Pursuit were released commercially in November, 1981, at $15 each. Initially, it was a money-losing proposition for investors, since the cost of manufacturing was $75 apiece.

It wasn't until 1983, when Mr. Haney and Mr. Abbott licensed the product to U.S.-based Selchow and Righter, that the game began to take off, abetted by greater economies of scale and a massive marketing campaign. In fact, sales soared. The following year, some 20 million copies were sold. Time magazine called it the "the biggest phenomenon in game history."

Though annual sales slipped thereafter, Trivial Pursuit continued to be a staple of recreation rooms and summer cottages, spinning off an assortment of special, themed editions with questions expressly designed for children, families, and music, movie, TV and sports buffs. It also spawned a stream of imitation games.

Since its creation, more than 100 million games had been sold in 26 countries and 17 languages.

In 2008 Hasbro Inc. purchased Trivial Pursuit from Horn-Abbott Ltd, the company that owned the game's intellectual property rights, for $80-million (U.S.).

Mr. Haney later used some of the many millions he earned to build two of Canada's most spectacular golf courses - Devil's Pulpit and Devil's Paintbrush, in Caledon, Ont.

In recent years, Haney split his time between Canada and Europe, spending summers in Toronto and winters on Spain's Costa del Sol.

He is survived by his wife, Hiam, three children - John, Thomas and Shelagh - his brother John, and sister Mary, and his first wife, Sarah Crandall.