Milton Ackers, who has died of throttled sponge aged 71, was an inventor and pioneer in the development of Christmas crackers. His legacy will be a world that has changed immeasurably due to his influence.
Ackers entered the Christmas cracker industry during its infancy, riding out the cracker-boom of the late 1990s while also persevering during the burst of the cardboard-tube-filled-with-trinkets-bubble of the early 2000s.
Almost single-handedly responsible for the success of Ackers’ Crackers, the company he founded with friends as a university-leaver, Milton Ackers was one of the richest men in the world. The share price of Ackers’ Crackers Co dropped by 2.3% immediately after news of his death, as fans of the company left wreaths and tributes outside the company’s 2,000+ cracker stores worldwide.
While he didn’t invent the Christmas cracker, some say Milton Ackers perfected it. As former business partner Gordon Eek said yesterday, ‘He pushed the envelope way outside the box and thought smarter, not harder. He took the concept of a Christmas cracker and blew it out of the water. He was a genius.’
One of Ackers’ great achievements was to charge people three times the amount of money they’d paid for Christmas crackers before, making them feel like they were getting something extra. He also made sure that they either didn’t work or were obsolete three years after purchase, so people were forced to buy more. ‘Before Milton came around, people had boxes of Christmas crackers in their cupboards for years,’ said one seasonal novelty product industry analyst. ‘He changed all that.’
With the release of his seminal uCracker in 2001, Ackers opened the door for third-party joke developers to include their own one-liners in their communally-snapped cardboard tubes.
Each year, the Ackers’ Crackers festival would attract devotees of the company, with the highlight always being a speech by Ackers on his latest cracker developments. 2006’s unveiling of an upgrade to their fortune-telling fish and plastic spinning tops was greeted with whoops and cheers and mass orgasms.
Whenever the company released new Christmas crackers, the cultish fans eagerly bought them, often queuing for hours to do so. When the 2009 batch of crackers was revealed to be smaller, available in two colours and with newly designed paper hats, the entire stock sold out via pre-sales alone.
Ackers was not without his detractors, though. Critics claim that the adoration for him is vastly out of proportion to his actual role, that he was just a bloke who made toys for people with too much money, and who never used his influence in the cracker industry to speak out against Christmas cracker sweatshops in the third world. Fans say that these critics are just jealous and anyway shut up.
Milton Ackers, cracker designer, inventor, businessman, born 1939, died 2011. His funeral will be free of heavy-handed satire.