Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR
Just last week the world learned massive toy retailer Toys R Us would be closing all of its 800 US locations. Kids across the country were mortified, and more than a few parents too. Now, one billionaire CEO is hoping to stem the tide.
Isaac Larian, the force behind the Bratz dolls and Little Tike toy lines says he has investors lined up to help bail out Toys R Us. Well, about half of the 400 stores, anyway. In addition to the $200 million he already says he has pledged, Lariancreated a GoFundMe page in order to raise even more cash, this time from consumers who don’t want to see the retailer go away.
Larian called Toys R Us an American icon that “has to be saved,” adding, “I used to take my kids there instead of Disneyland. This needs to be saved for the next generation…”
That will be a tall order, even for someone with pockets as deep and as full as Larian’s. The company was spending $100 million each month just to try to keep the doors open. Losses had been mounting, and debt piling up for years. Larianremains undeterred. “During my life as an entrepreneur, I was often told something couldn’t be done, that no doll could challenge Barbie. And we’d still get it done…”
Larian believes the toy company wasn’t the problem, and neither were sales. He places the blame squarely on private equity ownership, who, he says, piled on the debt that was not in any way manageable. “Every penny it made went to paying debt service…”
To pull off his plans, Larian needs at least a billion dollars by the end of May. Otherwise, it’s likely that his dream to save Toys R Us will fail. However, Larian is confident he can get the cash.
So, what, exactly, does Larian want to do? Well, at this point, media reports say he wants about half the stores as well as the Toys R Us brand.
There’s no doubt the Toys R Us brand is valuable, regardless of the current state of things. Generations of American kids grew up not only with the stores but with the earworm of a jingle. You know, the one you’re humming right now.
Larian has good reason to want Toys R Us around besides the nostalgia factor he espouses. The toy industry entrepreneur has legitimate worries about a future for the toy business without Toys R Us in the market. Sure, some brands will go exclusively online… but that’s not an option for everyone.