Category Archives: Current Events

Billionaire Brainstorm—or Boondoggle? MGA’s Issac Larian Enters Formal Offer to Purchase U.S. and Canadian Toys ‘R’ Us Stores and Remake Them Into a “Mini Disneyland in Every Neighborhood”

Billionaire Hopes to Preserve “Toys ‘R’ Us Experience” for His Grandson’s Generation

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Isaac Larian— MGA Entertainment mogel and owner of the “Bratz” line of dolls (Photo: Mediatly)

In a bizarre twist to the ongoing Toys ‘R’ Us bankruptcy saga, billionaire Isaac Larian of MGA Entertainment has offered to purchase over 280 of the 735 Toys ‘R’ Us locations currently facing imminent and permanent closure for a whopping $887 million. Why, you might ask, would ANYONE want to spend all that money on what appears to be a dying “brick-n-mortar” business model showing NO hope of surviving in today’s digital “get it now” Amazonian shopping age? For the latest on this unexpected and constantly evolving story, we refer you to a story posted yesterday over on the CNN website (HERE) which reveals the following surprising intel:

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“Isaac Larian said Friday that he’s entered a formal offer of $675 million to buy many of the Toys “R” Us stores in the United States, along with an additional $215 million for Toys “R” Us stores in Canada. Larian is looking to buy more than 200 of the remaining 735 locations in the US, and almost all of more than 80 locations in Canada, a spokesperson said. Larian, who runs MGA Entertainment, will use his own money for the bid, along with financing from banks and additional investors, according to a press release. ‘The liquidation of Toys ‘R’ Us is going to have a long-term effect on the toy business. The industry will truly suffer,’ he said in a statement. ‘The prospect of bringing the Toys ‘R’ Us experience to a new generation, my new grandson’s generation, is enough to motivate me to Save Toys ‘R’ Us.’ Toys “R” Us declined to comment.”

Can you imagine being ready, willing and ABLE to spend $887 million dollars—of your own money—to prevent some 280 Toys ‘R Us stores from closing? Is Larian truly serious? It appears so. The CNN article goes on to reveal that the billionaire’s long-term strategy for saving 280 failing stores goes far beyond providing a heartfelt or nostalgic shopping “experience” for his grandson’s generation. Here’s what his plans REALLY are:

Larian’s vision for Toys ‘R Us includes turning its stores into entertainment hotspots. ‘We will make Toys ‘R Us an experience in and of itself; a fun and engaging place where families can spend an entire day,” he said in his statement on Friday. ‘Imagine a mini-Disneyland in each neighborhood.”

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Been There, Done That— Larian’s concept of converting old Toys ‘R’ Us stores into “Mini-Disneylands” has already been tried—and failed. This one, the chain’s flagship store in New York City’s bustling Times Square district, was big enough to fit a ferris wheel inside! Guess what? Yup. It’s closed now. If this mega-store concept didn’t work in Times Square, with all of its never-ending foot traffic, how could it succeed elsewhere? How much do you think they’d have to mark-up TRU toys to pay for all of this? Perhaps Larian should give his ambitious plan a teeny bit more thought. (Photo: tripadvisor) Click to enlarge.

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Can You See Them NOW?— Before closing, the TRU flagship store in NYC also had the added benefit of a giant, wraparound video marquee. Can you imagine something like this surrounding Larian’s proposed 280 “mini-Disneylands” in the U.S. and Canada? Would such a monumental investment in time, material, and CASH really be worth it? Or is the lure and ease of “one-click” and “add to cart” online shopping simply too powerful for “brick-n-mortar” retailers to overcome? (Photo: tripadvisor) Click to enlarge.

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Welcome to Barbie Town— You’ve heard of the famous (also now gone) “Barbie Aisle,” right? Well, how about an entire Barbie TOWN? This amazing retail display was also in the NYC TRU store before it closed. Imagine a similar structure built by Hasbro called the “GIjOE PX” or something like that, full of Joes, Jeeps, equipment sets and more. Hey, we can dream, can’t we? (Photo: tripadvisor) Click to enlarge.

Bottom Line: This is all so FASCINATING. And hopeful. And exciting! But will ANY of it actually come to pass? Will Larian’s offer be accepted? Will he really spend even MORE of his own money to convert a bunch of aging Toys ‘R’ Us stores into 280 “mini-Disneylands?” It’s been tried in major cities already, and sadly, it’s failed. To be honest then, its doubtful much will come of this new development. But don’t lose hope, dear readers. We’ll keep you updated as this ever-changing, high-stakes, and “quixotic” tale of money, family, and TOYS continues to unfold. Stay tuned!

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Selling “All Assets” to Highest Bidder—Hobbico Prepares to Take the Next (and Saddest) Step in its Own Arduous Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Proceedings

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It’s Hammer Time!— Everything at Hobbico must GO, and go it shall, to the highest bidder at an auction being held March 29th in Chicago. Will the RC giant survive? (Photo: auctionclipart.com)

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Picking up the Pieces— What will remain for RC fans after Hobbico’s demise? Repairing a crashed 1:6 scale RC vehicle or plane may get a LOT more expensive once the company has liquidated all of its assets and parts become scarce. (Photo: rcplanecrashes.com)

While news of the imminent collapse of Toys ‘R Us continues to dominate national news headlines, another more local, but no less important story, is shaking fans and collectors of 1:6 scale RC aircraft and vehicles to their very core. We’re talking again, of course, about the upcoming demise of Hobbico, (formerly) one of the RC hobby’s leading manufacturers and distributors. Hobbico’s troubles hit very “close to home” around here. That’s because they’re headquartered just a few miles up the road from our offices here in central Illinois, Champaign-Urbana (C-U) to be exact. As such, we see and hear news that is related to Hobbico probably a little more often than the rest of the country, but the impending loss of ANY 1:6 scale product manufacturer—and employer—will undoubtedly send economic “ripple effects” outside of our local community, into the worldwide “toy economy” as well. Today’s updates come to us from News-Gazette reporter, Ben Zigterman, who provides the following intel on the company’s upcoming liquidation auction:

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Ben Zigterman, reporter for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette (Photo: Ben Zigterman)

“Having filed for bankruptcy protection in January, Hobbico plans to auction its assets March 26 in Chicago in a bid to find a buyer. The hobby-product distributor, which employs more than 300 people in the county, placed ads Wednesday in The News-Gazette and USA Today with notices of the auction, as required by the bankruptcy process. In the past couple days, former employees also told The News-Gazette they had received notices about the auction, which will be followed by a hearing on March 28. When Hobbico filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, it said it had added too much debt and faced ‘an increasingly competitive industry, market headwinds and a series of one-off events with key suppliers.’ It also said that it had an estimated 200 to 999 creditors, $10 million to $50 million in assets, and $100 million to $500 million in liabilities. In recent court documents, Hobbico also indicated it had $114 million in revenue in 2017, down from $175 million in 2016. Hobbico asked for a minimum bid for all the assets at $38 million, or less than that for different parts of the business, according to court documents.”

hobbicologoBottom Line: This latest, saddest phase of Hobbico’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy saga parallels the similar travails currently going on at Toys ‘R Us, which is unsettling to many, to say the least. The March 26 auction up in Chicago will completely hand the reins of Hobbico over to whomever (or whatever) “new ownership” may step in, and those new owners must then decide the fates of hundreds of hard-working employees and what—if anything—can (and will) be done to keep the company afloat.

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A Real Pain in the Wallet—Hasbro and Mattel’s Stock Values Take Immediate Hit After News of Toys ‘R Us’ Imminent Liquidation Announced

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Stop the Madness— It’s like dominos—If Toys ‘R Us fails or “falls down,” then toy manufacturers too, may begin to fall—like dominos. And if that actually happens, we’ll all have to start buying those wooden “educational toys” peddled at local farmer’s markets. Oh, nooooo!!! (Graphic: dreamtime)

And so it begins— Yesterday’s news of Toys ‘R Us “facing its finality” sent immediate shockwaves throughout the toy industry, reflected most clearly by a corresponding drop in both Hasbro and Mattel’s share values. Hasbro survived yesterday’s economic “ripple effects” better than Mattel, dropping -2.06%, while Mattel fell a whopping -7.11%—in just 1 day! According to MarketWatch: 

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“Mattel’s stock has tumbled 36.6% over the past 12 months and Hasbro shares have lost 4.1%, while the S&P has gained 15.8%.”

Bottom Line: Ouch. Anyway we look at it, while the economy and stock markets continue to perform strongly, the toy industry is now officially headed in the other direction. Fortunately for both Hasbro and Mattel, the stock market closes today at 1PM, hopefully shielding them from any further losses—at least until Monday. Stay tuned. We may need to revisit this topic frequently.

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Toys ‘R Us Preparing to Call it Quits in the U.S. Toy Business—Complete U.S. Liquidation Coming Soon

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If every one of his stores close, Toys ‘R’ Us’ mascot, “Geoffrey” may soon be a homeless company mascot. (Graphic: Toys ‘R’ Us)

Attempts to “Find a Buyer” Evaporated

Prepare for the end, boys and girls…

It appears that Toy’s ‘R Us (TRU) has failed in its ongoing efforts to restructure its debt and will be forced into complete liquidation of its assets as early as next week. This will include the closing and selling off of its entire chain of U.S. retail stores. The profound economic “ripple effects” that will occur are sure to hit toy manufacturers hard, as well as an untold number of smaller toy companies and distributors. According to today’s article in the UK’s Daily Mail:

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“It’s anticipated that toy manufacturers will suffer if Toys ‘R’ Us does liquidate in the U.S., as the company accounts for about 15 per cent of American toy sales. In addition, Toys ‘R’ Us was known for giving small companies and new products a chance, whereas other toy-selling retailers, such as Walmart and Target, prefer to go with tried-and-true merchandise.” —UK Daily Mail

Bottom Line: There’s not much more we can say on this matter at this point. Toy fans around the U.S. are surely aghast at the prospect of losing ALL of its Toy’s ‘R Us stores. We thought at least a few would remain open, but that appears to be wishful thinking on our part. If you’d like to read the entire article in today’s UK Daily Mail, jump HERE now.

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Hasbro Bluntly Urges its Loyalest Customers to “Ditch the Digital Distractions” (and Return to Toys) in Mass E-mail Promotion Released Today

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How to Help Hasbro Stem the Flow—In this screenshot (taken today) of our email “inbox,” the subject heading of Hasbro’s most recent mass emailing urges consumers to “Ditch the digital distractions.” Digital devices such as cell phones and video games are a growing threat to an already beleaguered toy industry. This latest plea from Hasbro appears to confirm that fact. Click to enlarge.

An Open Admission of a Major Threat to a Struggling Toy Industry

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“Ditch the digital distractions.”

Those four powerful words are actually quite revelatory coming from a company like Hasbro. Giant corporations that generate billions of dollars in sales—per year—typically want nothing more than to paint the rosiest of pictures (regarding their businesses) for their customers and of course, their stockholders. But for a few years now, toy industry analysts (including those here at The Joe Report) have been openly ruing and discussing how two specific inventions—the cell phone and the video game console—have largely been responsible for precipitating an industry-wide slump in toy sales; not to mention the bankruptcies and closings of major toy retailers (i.e. Toys ‘R Us, Hobbico, etc.) and the scariest thing of all—the growing LOSS of the toy industry’s  historically primary customer base—CHILDREN. Yes indeed, those are four POWERFUL words.

One BIG Question Remains—Will Children “Tune Out” of Toy Fandom FOREVER?

Remember the days when toy companies simply had to urge us to “Collect ’em All!” and we’d frantically beat a path to our local toy store to comply? Sure ’nuff! And growing up, we’d watch all of those Hasbro and Mattel commercials on TV, see their products displayed in store windows, and peruse their ads in endless pages of comic books. By the time we’d finally convinced our parents to take us to the toy store, our desires had become almost Pavlovian. See the toy—want the toy. Remember the mad scrambles over Cabbage Patch Dolls back in the 1980s? The idea of that sort of consumer “scrum” over ANY toy today seems almost quaint. It’s just not likely to happen.

Forgotten how to PLAY? (Photo: The Finder)

Bottom Line: This latest email from Hasbro may be nothing—or it may be something. How’s that for a wishy-washy conclusion? Regardless, we’re sure that the “big boys” over at both Hasbro and Mattel would be THRILLED to see some of that ol’ “rabid” consumer interest in their products once again. But thanks to today’s dreaded digital distractions, that sort of mania doesn’t seem likely to happen ever again. In fact, the current, ongoing, DECREASING demand for nearly all categories and brands of toys continues to paint a gloomy (rather than rosy) picture for the industry. It clearly has MANY manufacturers worried (see our previous story HERE). Fingers crossed for better news!

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Mattel and Hasbro Considering a Merger—Again

matty-kid-1A recipe for disaster corporate success: Take 1 part struggling Mattel Toys, combine it with 1 part more of longtime rival, Hasbro Toys, then sprinkle with a dash of shrinking consumer interest and a smattering of unpalatable market effects (such as crumbling Toys ‘R Us (TRU) infrastructure), and what do you have? We don’t know, but the world’s two biggest toy companies appear to be contemplating a merger that (they hope) would cook up profitable “hot” products (to display on those vanishing TRU store shelves?), raise “Has/Mat” stock prices, and boost their newly combined mega-company’s bottom line. But WILL it?

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Will all of this corporate merger/restructuring simply result in a bland melange of bombast trumpeting, “Hey, look at us, we’re doing something BIG about our troubled toy industry.” Or is this all going to boil over into an even bigger, blander pot of  “kids-just-don’t-care-about-toys-anymore” reality stew? It will be interesting to toy fans and collectors to find out. Here’s the latest article we’ve found on this possible merger and its hoped-for final effects. Read it, watch the Mattel CEO video, and decide for yourself whether this merger is a good idea

Bottom Line: This move seems like too MUCH, and too LATE, to us. If the two companies combine, wouldn’t there be less urgency, less rivalry, less competitive spirit and less innovation? Monopoly the game, may be fun to play, but monopolies in real life rarely work out well for consumers. Company execs and stockholders may benefit in the short term, but toy fans in general will probably be quickly bored by all the new “tech toys” Mattel’s CEO seems to be so enamored of. (And all this hoopla looks like it’ll be one more nail in GIjOE’s “low tech” coffin box.)

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No More Toy Stores? Toys ‘R Us Going Bankrupt

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Going, Going… GONE? Someday very soon, a simple trip to a neighborhood toy store may become a nostalgic memory from America’s past. In yet another startling measure of the growing number of consumers switching over to online purchasing, retailing giant, Toys ‘R Us, recently announced that it is seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Though safe for now, all of the company’s colorful stores may soon be shuttered—and completely empty. (Photo: gettyimages)

Bottom Line: Toys ‘R Us (TRU), has officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (see complete details HERE). Sadly, we saw this event coming along YEARS ago. As more and more consumers have chosen to “shop” for bargains online and purchase their toys on the internet, web-retailing powerhouses such as Amazon and Walmart (and many, many others) have continued to drain away TRU’s financial stability and perilously erode its market share.

Indeed, TRU’s once-dominant, nation-wide chain of “brick-n-mortar” toy stores is now facing a dire and uncertain future. Faithful readers of The Joe Report will recall we first reported on TRU’s mounting fiscal woes waaaay back in 2014 (see that story HERE), and since that time, the company’s situation has only continued to weaken. It’s too soon to “call the game” on this sad story, and we’ll continue to monitor developments, but if current market trends are any indication, we don’t expect news to improve for America’s once mightiest—but now FAILING—toy chain.

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G.I.Joe Convention 2017 This Weekend, Orlando, FL

GIJOE2017WEBcenter.jpgBottom Line: You already know it’s going on. If you don’t, well… it is! And if you’re there, HAVE FUN! If you’re not… there’s always next year—in Chattanooga, TN. June 21-24, 2018. Go, JOE!

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SHOCKER! “G.I. Joe” Cop Intentionally Misleads Investigators, Stole From IL Youth Program, Commits Suicide and “Extensive Criminal Acts”

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No Hero— Lt. Joseph “G.I. Joe” Gliniewicz (now deceased) in his squad car. (Photo: Tom Ahern)

Bottom Line: Ouch. What a sad and pathetic story. However, despite its depressing outcome, we felt compelled to report the latest findings regarding the Illinois police officer nicknamed “G.I. Joe” and the unsettling realities of his actions. Make sure you have some Tums or Alka-Seltzer on hand before you read THIS gut-wrenching story over on the Chicago Tribune website.

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Death of a Real-Life American Hero———Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles “G.I. Joe” Gliniewicz, Killed While Pursuing Three Suspects in Illinois

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Slain police officer, Charles “G.I. Joe” Gliniewicz of Illinois. (Photo: Fox Lake PD)

In an all too common story (nowadays), we’ve just received news that another member of America’s “thin blue line” separating civilized society from anarchy and chaos—has been killed. In this particular case, the slain police officer in question, Lt. Charles Gliniewicz of Fox Lake, IL, also had a unique nickname that may be of interest. That’s right. It was “G.I. Joe.” We’re not sure how or when Officer Gliniewicz was tagged with that specific appellation, but it will certainly strike another chord with readers of The Joe Report. As of the writing of this article, Gliniewicz’s killer (or killers) remain at large and a massive manhunt is currently underway. According to the latest intel from NBC News:

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“A growing manhunt continued on land and in the air Tuesday for three suspects believed to have gunned down a police officer in northern Illinois during a foot chase. The slain officer in Fox Lake, a village on the Wisconsin border, was identified as 30-year-veteran Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, a married father of four boys. Colleagues nicknamed him “G.I. Joe,” the mayor said.”

The Manhunt is On— For the killer or killers of Lt.

Armored Up— The manhunt is on for the killer—or killers—of Lt. Gliniewicz. (Photo: nydailynews)

“Gliniewicz radioed to dispatch before 8 a.m. local time that he was chasing three male suspects engaged in suspicious activity, Lake County Sheriff’s spokesman Chris Covelli told reporters. The officer then lost contact with the dispatchers. When backup arrived, officers found the injured Gliniewicz lying in a marshy area and stripped of his weapon and pepper spray, Covelli said. He died at the scene, reported NBC Chicago.”

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Killed in the Line of Duty—Lt. Gliniewicz on duty in his Fox Lake PD squad car. (Photo: Fox Lake PD)

Gliniewicz was remembered Tuesday for his enthusiasm and dedication to law enforcement, including working with children as part of a local Police Explorers unit. ‘He would always try to help everybody,’ youth member Thomas Ashbacher told NBC Chicago. ‘He would give his shirt off his back if he could.’ Ashbacher said Gliniewicz went by G.I. Joe because of his past military career, and was always patient when it came to showing kids the ropes of law enforcement training. ‘He could be tough,’ Ashbacher recalled, ‘but he could also be the most friendliest guy [to] you.”” 

Bottom Line: Our sincerest support and prayers go out to the family of Lt. Gliniewicz and to the other members of the Fox Lake PD and to all other police departments nationwide.

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Honoring Gliniewicz— A supporter of Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz holds up his handmade sign in memory of the slain police officer in Illinois. (Photo: REUTERS/Jim Young)

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