Kevin Hinkle No Longer with The LEGO Group

LEGO Kevin Hinkle

Today is a sad day in the LEGO community as Kevin Hinkle has announced that he is no longer part of The LEGO Group after twelve years with the company. I’ve known about this for a few weeks but wanted to wait until Kevin himself made a statement out of respect to him. He did note that him leaving the company was not his decision or his intent but I won’t speculate why.

If you’re not familiar with Kevin and who he is, he’s basically started off working at a LEGO Brand Store to becoming the Community Coordinator for North America who worked closely with LUGs and well as connecting with LEGO fans in general. The Brick Blogger did a great write-up about Kevin’s story a few years back. My first and only time that I met Kevin was back in 2014 during Philly Brick Fest and he was a great person to talk to even though it was for a brief period of time. He actually knew about The Brick Fan site even though I’ve only had it up for a few short years at that time.

Although he’s no longer part of The LEGO Group, he’ll still be part of the LEGO community as a fan just like us. He can now be found on social media @MrKevinHinkle as well as on Bricks in the Middle.

  • Parker

    Not just Kevin is leaving, I’m pretty sure The Whole community team has been forced to leave also. Paul Streifler, Mike McCoy, and other have had to leave :

    • From what I know, Paul has been transitioned to a role somewhere in LEGO Retail.

      • Purple Dave

        That’s what we heard as well, but no idea what role he has now. Unfortunately, I missed Brickworld last year, and he didn’t officially enter the role until July the year before, so I never met Paul. I did run into Kevin several times over the years, and I’ve got two versions of his minifig business card (both wielding Mjolnir, as is only proper). We heard he was laid off, but didn’t know it had affected the entire Community Team. Bummer. Wonder what that means for that aspect of AFOL conventions going forward, since it’s starting to sound like there isn’t even a scrap of a community team left at this point.

        • Thita

          The community team is still there, but definitely thinner, and more spread out. While previously the focus was on the US, and reps of the community team came to pretty much all the large, and even some of the smaller conventions, the focus now is on expanding to Asia.
          This means that LEGO is mostly going to be keeping up with the North American and European communities virtually via the RLUG program (both for physical and online LEGO fan groups). We will likely not see them in person as much.
          My belief is that they will be back after trying out this new strategy for while. Not engaging with their oldest and most loyal fans in favor of new fans in new territories could very well backfire, and they will realize how much they miss us. 😉
          And yes, seeing Kevin and some other others let go is very sad news. I have fond memories of working with Kevin. He was always so attentive and patient.

  • David4

    I really need to get myself a job in a LEGO Store.

  • ModifiedJason

    Is Lego doing that bad? I mean honestly they just need to offer public stock, I suspect it would go very well. I’d for sure invest.

    • Reflectere

      I don’t think they’re in any real danger as a whole. They are taking preventive measures after having NA sales decline to prevent a near-bankruptcy crises like they ran into prior to 2004. The Group is laying off 8% of their NA workforce after a 5% decrease in Q2 revenues. This will come out to about 1,400 jobs. I think the problem is LEGO Group is diversifying into product categories too far removed from its core product (again). This is what caused the earlier company crises. What’s interesting is that while the rest of the toy industry slumped during the recession, LEGO Group grew in profits as they refocused on their core product. Now, with the economy “growing”, the company is losing revenue. Not a good sign. They plan on cutting back excessive product lines and refocusing on their most popular ones while continuing to expand in the Asian market (particularly China at this time).

      • ModifiedJason

        Thanks for the insight. I did read previously that Lego NA was doing slightly down. But like you said, a strategic re-focus on the core products and bolster the lines doing well makes sense. While I’ve been a Lego fan since I was a child (literally my favorite toy then and now), only in recent years have I been able to afford buying literally thousands of dollars of kits just because. I suspect I spent $5k easily this year alone on Lego, mostly in Lego stores but also elsewhere.

      • Purple Dave

        Sales declined. Profits were still super high. It’s just the massive boost they got from 2014’s The LEGO Movie tapering off due to The LEGO Batman Movie being not quite the smash hit that TLM was, and The LEGO Ninjago Movie being somewhat of a disappointment. That surge in sales is something that couldn’t be expected to last forever, which is not to say that this means their customer base is deserting them. It just means they’re not the “it” thing at the moment.

    • Purple Dave

      It sounds like it’s just a restructuring. I just found out that the Community Team role is being absorbed into the Ambassador Network. I don’t know what Paul’s new job is, or who else may have been retained. They’ve done bigger in the past, and it didn’t appear to be so much about cutting payroll as it was about improving the entire company. A few decades ago, there was a division called LEGO Direct. The Community Team actually grew out of LEGO Direct. The UCS line was spearheaded by LEGO Direct. The Cloud City playset came from LEGO Direct. The [email protected] website and a lot of their LEGO.com online content was handled by LEGO Direct. And sometime maybe between 10-15 years ago LEGO Direct was absorbed into the rest of the company. The stated reason was that LD was just an experiment, and having succeeded, they wanted to make the entire company operate more like the way LD was. And as a result of that overhaul, LD was simply disbanded. Some of the employees transitioned into other roles, while the rest were probably just laid off. In their case, the process probably got even uglier since LD operated out of Manhattan, while the next closest operation was in Enfield, CT. At least one of the LD team ended up transferring to Billund.

      The truth is, the Community Team was never really in a stable position. Kevin once told me that every time they printed up new business cards, they’d find out that the name of the team and/or their roles had been changed, and now all of the new business cards would be incorrect. I think they eventually got around that issue by just making up a title that generally described what they did. And chances are that anyone they would be interfacing with in the public would already know the basics anyways and wouldn’t care if the job titles and division were 100% accurate at all times. I mean, I once saw one of Kevin’s official job titles and it didn’t even make any sense, which is probably why they kept changing them every few months.

      • ModifiedJason

        Ironically, he probably came out of one of the Lego stores I actually frequent here in Denver.
        That said, your description of how they kept changing the name of the team and such scares me a tiny bit. My own group where I work is hyper-specialized but we are also the only group with specific access to make certain changes and we keep going through restructuring, name changes (as a group), title changes, management changes, even changes of what major group we fall under in terms of management. All the while the team grew 7x larger because people keep dumping more tasks on us that their group doesn’t want any longer. Yikes.

        That said, i’m sure he’ll do just fine.

        • Purple Dave

          Doing some digging online, it looks like he got hired into the Colorado Mills store in Denver working up from Sales Associate to Assistant Store Manager. Then he left to become the Store Manager at Chandler Fashion Center in Chandler, Arizona. His last store position was to transfer to the new Barton Creek Square store in Austin, Texas. It appears that store opened just a couple months before our local store.

  • Samuel Fisher

    Not mention that the legendary Masterbuilder Dan also got laid off ;( it is really sad because both him and Kevin have been with the company for so long and are so well known and respected in the Lego Community, they will be greatly missed

    • Purple Dave

      Dan got laid off, too? That sucks. He did the onsite Buzz Lightyear build for the grand opening of our LEGO Store, and came back to do what I believe was the only US-based Millennium Falcon build (the debut was SW Celebration in Australia) for the 10th anniversary of the mall where the LEGO Store is located. He wasn’t exactly young, but looked like he probably had at least a decade or two to go before he’d start thinking about retiring.

      According to Kevin’s message, it looks like he worked for LBR for six years and the Community Team for six more. Based on what he says in a Blockumentary video that I just found that features Dan, he started working for them back in May 1993, so 24.5 years total. One of Dan’s sons got hired full-time into the Masterbuilder position a few year back (Dan had actually transitioned into a leadership position within the Masterbuilder team), one of his daughters took a job in marketing, and all four of his kids put in some time helping out in the model shop as teenagers.

      • Samuel Fisher

        Yeah, I met him last year and he mentioned that to me just like his daughter isn’t with the company anymore but his son still is, which really sucks because it was a family trade.

  • Reflectere

    It’s interesting to see the LEGO Group repeating some of the same strategic mistakes that built up to the 2004 Crisis. They seem to have once again drifted too far from their core product and engage in too much product differentiation. LEGO is unique, but that also means there are unique expectations. Making LEGO a mainstream chain brand versus a unique product is their repeated mistake IMO. I don’t mean to say they shouldn’t pursue their vision and mission of globalization and creating the toy of the future, neither should they stop expanding LEGO as measured by a growth in profits. What I mean is diluting the LEGO brand through engagement in product categories that have nothing to do with the construction toy. As long as they continue to retain their private status, they’re going to have a hard time succeeding otherwise. Diversification is an inevitable necessity when trying to survive in a competitive market (which their specific niche of the toy market is not very competitive yet), but I think LEGO should maintain a related-constrained diversification strategy: keeping their product categories tied down to their core product and established resources. It will be interesting to see what happens with LEGO diversification as they react to the NA market and continue to expand into emerging markets, such as Asia.