Sir Hugh Beaver
Guinness World Records, which includes the Guinness Book of World Records and its Internet and TV incarnations, is reportedly for sale. According to a story in the Times of London, Hit Entertainment is asking $120 million. Hit is owned by a private equity firm, Apax Partners.
The original Guinness was started by Sir Hugh Beaver, managing director of Ireland's Guinness Brewery, in 1951 after an argument over the speed of a game bird. Sir Hugh knew such arguments are common in pubs, and thought it would be neat to sell a book that the bartender could pull out to settle them. Published in 1955, the book became a sensation and a perennial bestseller, with more than 100 million copies sold to date in 37 languages.
More than just a list, Guinness claims that its experts investigate and validate all the records contained within. Where it once included mostly ordinary records such as longest salt-water swim, tallest tree, etc., increasingly it has featured more bizarre records. The current record-holder for balancing on one foot, for example, is Arulanantham Suresh Joachim of Sri Lanka, at 76 hours and 40 minutes. If you are curious about the record for most modeling balloon sculptures made in one hour, it's held by Danielle Bottalico of Italy, at 722.
Deciding that it would rather concentrate on beer than such things as the longest tattoo session (43 hours), the largest pair of underwear (made in Australia by a firm called -- we're not making this up -- AussieBum), cricket-spitting for distance (30 feet, 1.2 inches), the owner of Guinness sold the records business in 1997. Guinness World Records has had several owners since then.
By the way, I couldn't find any record on the Guinness site for the fastest game bird, Sir Hugh's original question. However, in case you were wondering, the highest jump by a pig was 27.5 inches, in Japan in 2004. The pig's name was Kotetsu.