Tom Kalinske

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Tom Kalinske
Born (1944-07-17) July 17, 1944 (age 76)
OccupationExecutive Chairman of Global Education Learning
Known forSega of America, Inc.
Spouse(s)Karen Kalinske

Thomas Kalinske (born July 17, 1944) is an American businessman, best known as having worked for Mattel from 1972 to 1987, where he was credited with reviving the Barbie and Hot Wheels brands, launching Masters of the Universe, then being promoted to CEO from 1985 to 1987. Next he was 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 Genesis video game console. He is currently the Executive Chairman of Global Education Learning, a company dedicated to children's education in China.


Kalinske's education includes a bachelor of science degree at the University of Wisconsin in 1966, an MBA at the University of Arizona in 1968, and attending the Strategic Management Harvard Business School in 1976.

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]

Previously, Kalinske was CEO and Chairman of 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 Mike Milken and Larry Ellison each invested $250 million into for the purpose of using 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.[2] Many education companies came out of Knowledge Universe, including LeapFrog (NYSE:LF), K-12 (NASDAQ:LRN), Knowledge Beginnings (the largest chain of preschools in the US), Spring Plc, and Vistage (Executive Education).

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.[3][4] The 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 machine, and those left out of the loop were so offended by this move that they refused to distribute the Saturn at all.[5]

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.[6] After having tendered his resignation from Sega on July 15, 1996,[7]:549 to take effect on September 30,[4] Isao Okawa, who owned Sega at the time via CSK, reached out to him and invited him to work with the Okawa Foundation.[8] Kalinske remained on Sega's board of directors following his resignation.[4]

On July 11, 2006, Kalinske gave an exclusive interview to Sega-16 via an hour long telephone conversation, reflecting back on his Sega days.[9] Kalinske is quoted several times in IGN's 2009 article "IGN Presents the History of SEGA",[10] and extensively in interview excerpts in The Ultimate History of Video Games by Steven Kent.[7]

Kalinske served on the board of directors of the Toy Manufacturers of America for twelve years.[11] 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 from the book's author is in production, originally the book was supposed to be adapted by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg as a feature film, however it will instead be adapted as a limited television series with Rogen and Goldberg still attached.[12]

For his work at Mattel, Universal Matchbox, Sega, and Leapfrog, Kalinske was a 1997 inductee into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame.[11] He has received the NYC Boy Scout's Good Scout Award,[13] the Starlight Foundation Man of Year Award, the University of Wisconsin Business Partners "Distinguished Fellow" Award, and the Video Software Dealers Man of Year Award.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Harris, Blake J. 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. ^ Baker, Linda (January 27, 2011). Leah Nash, photographer. "Knowledge Universe reaches $1.6 billion in revenue". Oregon Business. Archived from the original on February 7, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2014.
  3. ^ "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.
  4. ^ a b c "Sega's President Resigns, New Team Quickly in Place". GamePro. No. 97. IDG. October 1996. pp. 24, 26.
  5. ^ "Sega-16 – Tom Kalinske: American Samurai".
  6. ^ Journal, Jim Carlton and David P. HamiltonStaff Reporters of The Wall Street. "Sega Hopes Its Dreamcast Can End A Nightmare of Mistakes, Infighting". WSJ.
  7. ^ a b Kent, Steven L. (2001). The Ultimate History of Video Games: The Story Behind the Craze that Touched our Lives and Changed the World. Roseville, California: Prima Publishing. ISBN 0-7615-3643-4. OCLC 47254175.
  8. ^ SegaBits Podcast on YouTube
  9. ^ "Sega-16 – Interview: Tom Kalinske (Former CEO of Sega of America)".
  10. ^ Travis Fahs (April 21, 2009). "IGN Presents the History of SEGA". IGN.
  11. ^ a b "Inductees". Toy Industry Association, Inc. Retrieved September 15, 2014.
  12. ^ Otterson, Joe (28 November 2018). "Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg to Produce 'Console Wars' as Limited Series".
  13. ^ "At the Deadline". GamePro (62). IDG. September 1994. p. 162.

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