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Barbie maker Mattel 'is insolvent' and can't be 'salvaged': Bratz doll creator

Brian Sozzi

MGA Entertainment founder and CEO Isaac Larian told us how he really felt about toymaker Mattel (MAT).

“The message to Mattel is very clear — they are in big, big trouble. Frankly why I gave up on the merger talks — we were considering a hostile takeover — because after further research Mattel is in such a situation right now I don’t think they can be salvaged,” Larian, the creator of Bratz and LOL dolls, said in an interview with Yahoo Finance. “There is too much water under the bridge and unfortunately, they are going to go the same way as Toys R Us.”

“Mattel is insolvent,” added Larian.

On Wednesday, Larian pulled his latest undisclosed offer to buy struggling Mattel, which he reportedly made several weeks ago. The toy mogul cited an uncooperative Mattel management team and what he believes is a deeply troubled brand. Larian did say he would be interested in buying Mattel’s brands on the cheap in bankruptcy should that day arrive.

Mattel’s shares dropped more than 4% on the news.

“The reality is we have made strong progress on our ongoing strategic transformation plan, including significant improvements in our profitability and operating income, while laying the groundwork to drive long-term shareholder value,” said a Mattel spokesperson. The spokesperson pointed to Mattel’s three consecutive quarters of lower losses as signs of progress.

Shown at the New York Toy Fair, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, the Barbie Fashionistas line continues to be the most diverse and inclusive fashion doll line on the market. The 2019 collection features a doll in a wheelchair, prosthetic limb, new body type and hair texture. (Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Mattel)

Mattel has continued to contest Larian’s latest statements and said they are simply not accurate. To their point, Mattel did end the first quarter with $380 million in cash. It also has a $1.6 billion untapped credit line secured in December 2017, according to its latest quarterly filing.

So technically speaking, Mattel is not insolvent as it stands today.

Indeed, Larian’s outburst isn’t coming out of nowhere, provided one has followed his interaction with Mattel executives this past year. Larian first offered to buy Mattel in May 2018, but was quickly rebuffed by then CEO Chris Sinclair.

Since then, new Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz and his executive team have embarked on a $650 million cost-cutting plan. The company has also opened a movie studio in an effort to develop content around its top brands similar to rival Hasbro (HAS).

Despite the efforts, Mattels’ sales and profits continued to be under severe pressure in the first quarter. The company also ended the first quarter with $2.8 billion in long-term debt, some of which will come due over the next several years.

The saving grace here in Larian’s eyes: The Barbie brand isn’t worthless. But Larian contends the storied doll brand isn’t worth what many people believe.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-host of ‘The First Trade’ at Yahoo Finance. Follow Brian Sozzi him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

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