Tom Kalinske

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Tom Kalinske
Tom Kalinske by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Kalinske at the 2023 WonderCon
Born (1944-07-17) July 17, 1944 (age 78)
Nationality American
Occupation Executive Chairman of Global Education Learning
Known for Sega of America, Inc.
SpouseKaren Kalinske

Thomas Kalinske (born July 17, 1944) is an American businessman who has worked for Mattel (1972–1990), Sega of America (1990–1996), and LeapFrog (1997–2006).


At Mattel, Kalinske was credited with reviving the Barbie and Hot Wheels brands, launching Masters of the Universe, then being promoted to CEO from 1985 to 1987. He next became CEO of Matchbox, and then was recruited to be the president and CEO of Sega of America, Inc. from 1990 to 1996, and the CEO and COB of Leapfrog 1997-2006. His aggressive marketing decisions during his time at Sega, such as price drops, anti-Nintendo attack ads, and the famous "Sega Scream" TV campaign, are often cited as key elements in the success of the Sega Genesis video game console. The book Console Wars and the documentary film of the same name chronicles Kalinske’s strategies and success in competing with Nintendo. Tom was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 1997 and received a lifetime achievement award from People of Play in 2021. He has also been honored as "Man of the Year" by the NY Boy Scouts and LA Make A Wish Foundation. He currently serves as Chairman of Mixed Dimensions, a 3D printing company, and on the boards of Stiched Insights, Adjunct Professor Link, Storyworld, the University of Wisconsin School of Business, and Teach The World Foundation. His estimated net worth is $10–$20M.


Thomas Kalinske earned a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Wisconsin in 1966 and MBA at the University of Arizona in 1968. In 1976, he attended Harvard Business School's Strategic Management Program.

After leaving Mattel in 1987, Kalinske went to work for rival company Matchbox, which had been recently placed into receivership. He implemented plans to cut costs by moving production to more labor-cheap regions in Asia, and by 1990, the company had managed to turn a profit for the first time in years with a revenue of over $350 million. [1]

While Kalinske was CEO of Sega of America, the company grew from $72 million to more than $1.5 billion and the market value of Sega grew from less than $2 billion to more than $5 billion.[ citation needed ] His market strategies have been cited as the key factor in breaking Nintendo's dominance of the video game industry, added greatly by a strategic partnership that Kalinske developed with Blockbuster CEO Joe Baczko and Blockbuster's Retail Strategy Officer Mark Allen Stuart. The partnership including the renting of Sega hardware units at a time when in-home penetration of Sega hardware was very low. Providing consumers with the ability to rent the hardware and then rent the video games became a form of marketing, with increased retail sales of both hardware and software as a result. [2] [3] The Sega Genesis and Game Gear systems were highly successful during this time. Later the commercial failure of the Sega Saturn video game console in the US was exacerbated by Sega's announcement during E3 1995 that the system was available in selected stores effective immediately instead of on the planned date of September 2, 1995, which had been dubbed "Saturnday". Kalinske was generally against releasing the Saturn early, but was forced to do so by Sega Enterprises, Ltd. With few games and consoles in stock, the pre-selected retailers simply were not ready to begin distributing the console, and retailers not provided consoles were so offended by this that they refused to distribute the Saturn at all. [4] Kalinske was not a fan of the Saturn's architecture, and was later quoted saying that he believed no one would be able to successfully market the console. [5] After having tendered his resignation from Sega on July 15, 1996, [6] :549 to take effect on September 30, [3] Isao Okawa, who owned Sega at the time via CSK, reached out to him and invited him to work with the Okawa Foundation. [7] Kalinske remained on Sega's board of directors following his resignation. [3]

Kalinske later became the CEO and Chairman of the educational toy company, Leapfrog, which grew to over $600M in revenue, becoming the largest education toy company in the US. He was President of Knowledge Universe, a company that aimed to use technology to improve education. According to Oregon Business magazine in 2011, the company was "the largest single private provider of early childhood education services in the country", with 40,000 employees on three continents and the biggest market share in the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Singapore. [8] Many education companies came out of Knowledge Universe, including LeapFrog, K-12, Knowledge Beginnings (the largest chain of preschools in the US), Spring Plc, and Vistage (Executive Education).

Kalinske served on the board of directors of the Toy Manufacturers of America for twelve years. [9] He served on the board of Blackboard 2005–2012. He currently serves on the board of Cambium Learning Group, the board of Genyous (a cancer drug development company), and the board of WCEPS (Wisconsin Center for Educational Products & Services). He is emeritus advisor to both the UW Business School and University of Arizona Eller School of Management and is vice chairman of LeapFrog Inc.[ citation needed ]


Blake J. Harris's book Console Wars , released in May 2014, is a retelling of Tom Kalinske's efforts to overthrow Nintendo. The story is formulated in a third person narrative which was assembled based on more than two hundred interviews carried out by the author with former Sega and Nintendo employees. A documentary based on the book was released on September 23, 2020.

For his work at Mattel, Universal Matchbox, Sega, and Leapfrog, Kalinske was a 1997 inductee into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame. [9] He has received the NYC Boy Scout's Good Scout Award, [10] the Starlight Foundation Man of Year Award, the University of Wisconsin Business Partners "Distinguished low" Award, and the Video Software Dealers Man of Year Award.[ citation needed ]

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  1. Harris, Blake J. (13 May 2014). Console wars : Sega, Nintendo, and the battle that defined a generation (First ed.). New York, NY. p. 16. ISBN   978-0-06-227669-8. OCLC   858354858.
  2. "75 Power Players: The American". Next Generation . No. 11. Imagine Media. November 1995. p. 57. His job was to try and beat Nintendo. ... And he did it by getting in first, being ultra competitive on price, offering upgrade paths, dragging videogaming (kicking and screaming) through the doors of some cool ad agencies and introducing the world to Sonic the Hedgehog. ... under Kalinske, Sega proved that the gaming market ain't a one-horse town.
  3. 1 2 3 "Sega's President Resigns, New Team Quickly in Place". GamePro . No. 97. IDG. October 1996. pp. 24, 26.
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  9. 1 2 "Inductees". Toy Industry Association, Inc. Retrieved September 15, 2014.
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