Just as it looked like the final nail was about to be driven into the proverbial Toys ‘R’ Us coffin, a potential savior has appeared. Toy industry executive Isaac Larian, best known as the CEO of MGA Entertainment — the company behind Bratz dolls — announced a plan to save the beloved toy store in the most 2018 way imaginable: he’s just going to crowdfund the thing.
Larian hopes that several other investors will join him in pooling together $200 million of their own money in an attempt to kick-start a crowdfunding campaign that they hope will, in turn, raise four times their initial investment. Should Larian succeed, the $800 million would represent the largest crowdfunding effort of all time.
Larian hopse to use money to buy at least 400 of the more than 700 Toys ‘R’ Us locations that are set to be liquidated in light of the company’s bankruptcy. Lest you think Larian is doing this out of the kindness of his heart, he has a financial reason for getting involved: According to a report by Time, Toys ‘R’ Us was responsible for the sale of one out of every five Bratz dolls. Beyond that, the toy industry, in general, is poised to lose a lot in the event that Toys ‘R’ Us becomes a relic of the past.
“People do not realize the hole that can’t be filled by other retailers,” said Larian.
In the same Time interview, Larian also expressed how important the Toys ‘R’ Us brand is for kids, noting that when children can go into a space and physically interact with the toys, they then give manufacturer’s crucial information about how to make items that they like. Larian also expressed fear for the thousands of people who will lose their jobs once Toys ‘R’ Us officially goes under. Should his crowdfunding effort succeed and save half of the stores, the effort could save up to 43,000 jobs.
There will be some competing interests, though. For those working in big real estate, the demise of Toys ‘R’ Us spells big money. Toys ‘R’ Us often operated their stores out of enormous warehouse-style buildings that are hard for most businesses to use and will now likely have to be sold off at way below their market value. Even If Larian could buy up a few of these on the cheap, turning a profit on the building could prove difficult, especially if some of Toys ‘R’ Us’ monetary woes bleed over into its potential survival. Still those woes, for Larian, would be linked to staying relevant in the age of Amazon, not to the massive $5 billion debt facing the company.
Larian remains steadfast even in the face of an uphill battle to keep the chain open. He’s not even using MGA’s money for the project; he’s using his own.
“We can’t just sit back and just let it disappear,” he said.