By the 1960s, when Tyco had expanded into the manufacture of HO scale electric racing sets, the company was a wholly owned subsidiary of the Sara Lee Corporation, a large American company. In the early 1980s, while still relying solely on the sales of electric trains and trucking and racing sets, Tyco was sold by Sara Lee to Savoy Industries, a privately held investor group. In 1984, the company embarked on a diversification program that included the introduction of Super Blocks building sets and personality telephones. By 1986, Tyco was a publicly traded U.S. company known not only trains and racing sets, but also its Super Blocks sets and its best-selling line of Radio Control vehicles.
Dino-Riders, a line of action figures based on the worldwide popularity of dinosaurs, further diversified the company when they were introduced in 1987. Tyco’s purchase of View Master/Ideal Group in 1989 brought the company product such as the View master Viewer, Magna Doodle, and Ideal Nursery line of dolls.
During 1992, Tyco continued its expansion and diversification, acquiring Illco, a maker of preschool toys, and Universal Matchbox Group, markers of the world-famous die cast cars.
Matchbox join other popular Tyco brands and toys, including The Incredible Crash Dummies, Baby Giggles’ N Go, Baby Get Well, Fashion Magic, Kidsongs videos, Lickin’ Lizard, and Scorcher Radio Control. Illco, now called Tyco Preschool, Inc., joins Playtime as the compny’s subsidiaries that deal primary on Direct Import, Letter of Credit basis. Playtime offers a variety of popularly toys, many of which have popular licensed brand names such as Sprint, Spalding, Stanley, Revlon and Tyco.
The Tyco Preschool subsidiary is the largest licensee of Sesame Street preschool toys. Tyco is also in the midst of an aggressive International expansion. Since 1991, the company has opened wholly owned subsidiaries in counties around the world, including the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Benelux, Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Mexico, Canada, and Australia. These subsidiaries are part of Tyco International, an operating unit under the direction of President Karsten Malmos. At that time, Tyco employed approximately 2,200 people worldwide and maintained manufacturing and distribution facilities in the United States and Hong Kong. The company’s stock is traded on the NYSE (Symbol: TTI).
In a move that will have repercussions in the coming years in the die-cast industry, the company and brand that almost killed off Lesney and Matchbox Toys back in 1969 now looked to own them in 1997! Mattel Toys, the world’s largest toy company, bought out Tyco Toys on November 18, 1996, for $755 million. The purchase of Tyco, which also makes radio control toys and Sesame Street Toys, would make Mattel a mega company almost dwarfing its number two competitor, Hasbro. Mattel Toys had made an unsuccessful bid for Hasbro itself in late 1995.
In 1997, a 1-75 line was completely revamped for only the second time ever, with sixty- tree re-colors, twelve new models, fourteen exacting new five pack, gold coin collection models,
Action System play sets, and exciting The last World-Jurassic Park license from the May 1997 Spielberg Movie – all sure winners. On March 31, 1997, Mattel officially took over Tyco Toys and the “Matchbox” brand.
The revamping of the entire line with all new recolors and new casting has continued through the Mattel era. In 1999, Mattel broke with nearly forty years of tradition and expanded the miniature range to one hundred vehicles, but only in the U.S. market. The lasted into the 2000 line; however, in 2001, Mattel decided to return to the time-honored tradition of seventy- five vehicles.
After selling Matchbox Collectibles mostly by mail-order for nearly ten years, Mattel decided in early 2001 to shut down is massive mail-order system and concentrate once again on the retail side. Mattel celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Matchbox brand during the weekend of August 24-25, 2002 in Manhattan.