The hashtag #SaveToysRUs was trending on Twitter last week when news broke that the toy retailer had plans to close all of its stores. Among those tweeting was billionaire Bratz doll maker Isaac Larian, the owner of one of the largest toy companies in the country, MGA Entertainment.
He not only directed his tweets at other toy companies like Lego and Disney, but even at President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka, asking them each to help save what he calls “The American Icon.”
SEE ALSO : Toys ‘R’ Us plans to close all U.S. stores
To no avail. So Larian has taken the matter into his own hands by starting a GoFundMe campaign under the same hashtag, now trending again on Twitter. He put in an initial $200 million with undisclosed investors and aims to raise a total of $1 billion; he expects the higher number will be enough to acquire Toys R Us.
“I am pretty sure we will achieve it,” the billionaire said by phone, referring to his campaign goal. He is betting that other billionaires, noting Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Facebook cofounder Mark Zuckerberg, will get on board and donate. “They all were kids at one time,” Larian explained. “Who doesn’t want to be a Toys R Us kid? So, I hope they do. I really hope they do. It is a good cause.”
To incentivize them, Larian has committed to giving donors of over $10 million a Toys R Us store dedicated in their name in any location they choose, along with toys from the retailer for life (based on his discretion, though). Will they get stakes in Toys R Us? Larian said it’s something he will consider.
This campaign is good branding for him: he has pledged to give every donor of $5 or more a prize, ranging from a #SaveToysRUs bumper sticker, a toy from MGA, or a signed thank you letter from Larian. These commitments will only be kept if the Toys R Us acquisition actually happens. For now, people are donating “at your own risk,” but the campaign states your money will be returned if it doesn’t prove successful.
Larian, calling himself an optimist, does not think that will be necessary. He is completely invested in reviving Toys R Us and even put in a separate bid for Toys R Us Canada last week, saying that the industry will not be the same without the toy retailer, as toy companies rely on it for a huge chunk of their sales. Yet so far, he’s been the only vocal toy maker as other leaders in the industry have declined to comment.
In an ironic twist on the Toys R Us news, the company announced that its founder, Charles Lazarus, died at age 94 on Thursday. He started the company in 1948 when he was 25 years old, initially as a baby furniture store; he eventually turned it into one of the biggest toy stores. Lazarus ran Toys R Us until 1994, when he stepped down as CEO and chairman, but remained a member of the board as chairman emeritus.
“I knew him. I met him personally. He was a great, great entrepreneur. The timing is horrible,” Larian said about Lazarus’ death. “I bet you this whole saga of Toys R Us – something that he started and built from nothing – going down to ashes put pressure on his heart.”
SEE ALSO : Screen Culture killed Toys “R” Us
Larian hopes to be the one to turn it all around. But it might be a long time before anyone knows the success of his experiment. So far, it’s off to a very slow start. In the first 12 hours, the campaign raised a little over $4,000 from approximately 130 donors; the highest donation currently, besides his own, is $500.