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Toys 'R' Us founder dies as iconic retail chain folds
[LOS ANGELES] The founder of the embattled Toys 'R' Us chain of children's stores died on Thursday, a week after the company announced the end of its operations in the United States.
"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, after a period of declining health," it said in a statement sent to AFP.
Lazarus, who was 94, had long since given up day-to-day running of the company he founded in 1948 as a small childcare store that evolved into one of the world's most recognisable kids' brands.
"He was the father of the toy business," Michael Goldstein, who succeeds Lazarus him as chief executive, told CNN.
"He knew the toys and loved the toys, and loved the kids who would shop in the stores. His face lit up when he watched kids playing with toys."
Toys 'R' Us announced a week ago that it was liquidating its US operations - shutting down all 735 stores in a move that could slash 33,000 jobs, a victim of the online retail boom.
A retail force throughout the 1980s, it also faced pressure from larger stores with deeper discounts and was taken private in 2005 by a consortium of investors that included the KKR Group and Bain Capital.
The move saddled the company with billions of dollars of debt, leading to a chain of events that ultimately resulted in the motion to liquidate.
MGA Entertainment, which makes Bratz dolls and Little Tikes toys, and other unnamed investors had personally pledged US$200 million to raise four times that through a GoFundMe campaign aimed at saving Toys 'R' Us.
The goal is to raise US$1 billion, which would be used in for a bid to acquire all or some Toys 'R' Us assets through the bankruptcy process, according to a statement issued on billionaire Isaac Larian's behalf.
In addition to the initial contribution, Mr Larian has pledged to commit 10 per cent of all proceeds from Little Tikes purchases made between Thursday and the end of the crowdfunding campaign, according to the statement.
"If there is no Toys 'R' Us, I don't think there is a toy business," Mr Larian said.
"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. We can't sit back and just let it disappear. Everyone deserves to be a Toys 'R' Us kid."
Amy Walter, a spokeswoman for Toys R Us, told AFP she was aware of the campaign but added that the company would not be commenting on it.