Chris Haney, co-creator of Trivial Pursuit, dies at 59
Published Monday, May 31, 2010 7:28PM EDT
Chris Haney, one of the co-creators of Canada's most famous board game, Trivial Pursuit, has died at the age of 59 after a long illness.
Haney invented the game with Scott Abbott in 1979. Both had worked in journalism: Haney was a photo editor for The Canadian Press and the Montreal Gazette, while Abbott was a sports reporter.
Abbott said Monday his friend will be remembered as kind and generous.
"He was at least as impactful on my life as anybody, including my parents, my wife and son," Abbott told The Canadian Press.
"We did a lot together."
The two men met in 1975, when Haney arrived in Montreal to co-ordinate CP's photo coverage of the 1976 Summer Olympics.
According to Abbott, the two became "fast friends and we stayed fast friends for better than 34 years."
In the late 1970s, they enlisted Haney's brother, John, and friend Ed Werner, a lawyer, to help them develop the game and set in motion a fundraising plan that would change the lives of many of their friends.
To raise money for their venture, the two men sold shares to friends and colleagues for $1,000. While many turned them down, those who didn't went on to rake in tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars in dividends as the game grew in popularity following its 1981 Canadian debut. Trivial Pursuit was introduced to the U.S. market in 1982.
In 1984, at the height of its popularity, more than 20 million games were sold. By 2004, total sales topped 80 million.
"We had no idea just how successful it would become," Abbott said. "We didn't realize it would transcend games players and become, with the Cabbage Patch Kids, what Time magazine in 1984 called an American social phenomenon."
While the game soared in popularity, the founders faced some adversity in two lawsuits.
In 1984, author Fred L. Worth filed a lawsuit claiming some of the game's questions and answers were taken from his trivia book, but his suits were thrown out by U.S. courts. In 1994, Canadian David Wall sued the men, claiming he told Haney about his idea for a trivia game when Haney picked him up hitchhiking in Nova Scotia. A Nova Scotia court ruled against Wall.
After several special editions of the game -- some devoted to certain decades, others focused on pop culture like the Star Wars films – the men sold the rights to Hasbro in 2008 for US$80 million.
Haney, who grew up in Welland, Ont., invested his board-game profits into one of Canada's top golf courses: the Devil's Pulpit.
The Ontario course opened in 1990, and the following year it was named Best New Canadian Golf Course by Golf Digest. It was co-designed by golf course architect Michael Hurdzan.
A second course, called the Devil's Paintbrush, opened two years later.
Haney built the courses with long-time friend, photographer Doug Ball, who described Haney as "shy and generous."
"So we built the Devil's Pulpit and Devil's Paintbrush and they're in the top 20 in the country," Ball told The Canadian Press. "We loved golf, we always did that. We liked photography and golf and we worked out great that way. It was a lot of fun."
Haney is survived by his wife, Hiam, his first wife, Sarah, their three grown children, John, Thomas and Shelagh, a brother, John, and sister, Mary.