LOS ANGELES – Elliot Handler, the co-founder of US toy giant Mattel who gave the world the Barbie doll, has died aged 95, the company said Friday.
Handler, who with his wife Ruth named the doll after their daughter Barbara in 1959 and two years later created Ken, after their son – died on Thursday from heart failure, according to the TMZ celebrity news website.
“We were very saddened to learn about the passing of Elliot Handler, the Mattel founder who created some of the world’s most beloved toys,” Mattel said in a statement.
“He not only inspired and delighted the employees of Mattel but generations of children around the world. The 30,000 employees of Mattel are proud to continue his legacy and love of play for generations to come.”
Mattel was founded in 1945 by Handler and his business partner Harold “Matt” Matson, who combined their names to create the world-beating brand. Matson was later bought out by the Handlers.
Barbie, the toy doll owned by generations of girls, wowed the world when she made her debut at a New York toy fair in 1959, leading to sales of 300,000 that same year.
With her long legs, love of pink-tinged glamor, and hair made for combing, she was a world away from the baby-like creatures cradled by girls of previous generations.
She is at the center of the Mattel company empire, and has inspired dozens of fashion designers, become a presence on Facebook and MySpace, and revolutionized playtime for young children.
Mattel, the world’s biggest toymaker, also owns megabrands including Hot Wheels, Fisher Price and American Girl and is based in Segundo, just west of Los Angeles, California.
The Handlers’ daughter Barbara is still alive. Their son Ken died of a brain tumor in 1994. Ruth Handler died in 2002 aged 85.