“Looking forward, given the serious problems facing the world, its leaders and its citizens, things look bright for Kingsford,” the firm wrote in 2011. The background of Kingsford’s actual co-founder may help explain its unusual holiday greetings. Mike Wilkins, 54 years old, received an M.B.A. degree at Stanford in 1985 and then promptly produced a significant American work of conceptual home art called “Preamble,” a 64-square-foot piece prominently displayed near the entrance to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington. Spelling out the “We the people” opening to the U.S. Constitution using vanity automobile license plates from all 50 states, the artwork foreshadowed what firm insiders and friends say is Mr. Wilkins’s focus on detail and fascination with American politics and economics. Fittingly, the piece is also one of the museum’s biggest moneymakers, adorning souvenir ties, mouse pads and T-shirts.
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