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Toy billionaire launches crowdfunding campaign to #SaveToysRUs

Toy billionaire Isaac Larian has dropped US$200 million into a crowd funding campaign that’s hoping to raise $1 billion to save embattled toy retailer Toys ‘R’ Us Inc.

Larian, founder and chief executive of Bratz dolls manufacturer MGA Entertainment, has launched the GoFundMe campaign in the hopes of making a bid for the business, which last week announced that it would be liquidating its more than 800 stores in the US.

The hashtag #SaveToysRUs has begun trending on Twitter after Larian personally reached out to the likes of Lego, Disney and President Donald Trump on the social media platform, seeking support for his bid.

“There is nothing quite like the joy and awe of a child walking through the aisles of a Toys ‘R’ Us store, I want to preserve that innocent experience for future generations,” Larian said.

“We can’t sit back and just let it disappear. Everyone deserves to be a Toys ‘R’ Us kid.”

474 people have donated more than US$16,000 dollars to the campaign in the eighteen hours since it has launched, and it has been shared more than seven thousand times online.

There’s still a way to go to reach US$1 billion, and with the campaign scheduled to end on 28 May, it’s likely that additional large donations will be required to reach the goal.

Donors would not be qualified to claim equity in any potential acquisition of Toys ‘R’ Us by a group of investors led by Larian.

However, the campaign said that if donations cannot be used to achieve the purchase of Toys ‘R’ Us “in some form” they will be returned.

Larian has also pledged to donate 10 per cent of all Little Tikes revenue from now until the campaign ends.

Larian has drawn criticism online for soliciting donations for a commercial venture, with some calling for a boycott on the toy maker’s business.

“Boycott MGA Entertainment’s products. No Stock options? No Stocks? No return on investment? You are giving this billionaire funds to purchase a company debt free that is sure to generate substantial profits. In return you are getting a sticker.” One commenter said.

But donors have defended the campaign, applauding Larian for putting his money where his mouth is.

“Doing my part to save 33,000 jobs! I don’t want to grow up. I’m a Toys ‘R’ Us kid,” one donor said.

GlobalData managing director and retail analyst Neil Saunders said via social media that the campaign is unlikely to save the business.

“Can a $1 billion GoFundMe campaign save Toys ‘R’ Us? Probably not, but it’s a creative way of trying to rescue the business!” he said.

There are no less than eight rewards tiers for donors ranging from US$5 to US$50,000, but most rewards are no more than #SaveToysRUs stickers, magnets and pins. Reward tiers above $25,000 offer tours of MGA Entertainments factories and Toys ‘R’ Us parties.

Toys ‘R’ Us Inc has also confirmed that its founder, Charles Lazarus, has died. The entrepreneur, who founded the toy retailer in 1957, was 94. The company shared the news online on Thursday.

“There have been many sad moments for Toys R Us in recent weeks, and none more heartbreaking than today’s news about the passing of our beloved founder, Charles Lazarus,” Toys ‘R’ Us said.

In a statement, Globaldata’s Saunders paid tribute to the veteran retailer.

“There is sad synchronicity in the timing of the death of Charles Lazarus, which comes just when Toys R Us, the retailer he founded, is preparing to shut up shop,” he said.

“The current woes of the toy giant do nothing to detract from the passion, skill, and enthusiasm that Mr. Lazarus brought to the business.

“The Toys R Us he created was an innovative and pioneering retailer that, in an era before online selling, used scale and volume to create a mecca to which generations of children were drawn.

“Unfortunately, many of the attributes that once made Toys R Us successful eventually became burdens that prevented the firm from competing in a digital era,” Saunders said.

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