Toy company CEO leads an effort to salvage Toys ‘R’ Us


Associated Press

NEW YORK

Toy company executive Isaac Larian and other investors have pledged a total of $200 million and hope to raise four times that amount in crowdfunding in a bid to save potentially more than half of the 735 Toys “R” Us stores that will go dark in bankruptcy proceedings.

The unsolicited bid faces a number of hurdles such as finding other deep-pocketed investors, as well as getting a bankruptcy judge to approve such an unusual plan. It is the first known plan to keep the Toys “R” Us brand alive.

The long-shot bid would be a huge benefit to Larian. Nearly 1 in every 5 sales made by Bratz doll-maker MGA Entertainment, where Larian is CEO, is rung up at a Toys “R” Us store.

Larian says he and the other investors, which he declined to name, believe that saving part of Toys “R” Us will be good for the toy industry, customers and workers.

The announcement last week that Toys “R” Us would be lost generated an enormous outpouring of nostalgia. #SaveToysRUs became a trend on social media.

The group trying to save a remnant of the toy chain is hoping that with Toys “R” Us on the brink, it can reach its goal of raising $1 billion in funding. The website savetoysrus.com directs consumers to a GoFundMe campaign to do that.

Toys “R” Us sought court approval last week to liquidate its remaining U.S. stores, threatening the jobs of some 30,000 employees and spelling the end for a chain known to generations of children and parents for its sprawling stores, sing-along jingle and Geoffrey the giraffe mascot.

Larian, a billionaire, is using his own money, not MGA funds, for the bid.

Meanwhile, Charles P. Lazarus, the World War II veteran who founded Toys “R” Us six decades ago and transformed it into an iconic piece of Americana, died Thursday at age 94, a week after the chain announced it was going out of business. Toys “R” Us confirmed Lazarus’ death.

Lazarus, who stepped down as CEO of Toys R Us in 1994, transformed the toy industry with a business model that became one of the first retail category killers – big stores that are so devoted to one thing, and have such an impressive selection, that they drive smaller competitors out of business.

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