Mattel, Inc. (/məˈtɛl/) is an American multinational toy manufacturing company founded in 1945 with headquarters in El Segundo, California. In 2014, it ranked #403 on the Fortune 500 list. The products and brands it produces include Fisher-Price, Barbie dolls, Monster High dolls, Ever After High dolls, Scrat dolls, Winx Club dolls, Hot Wheels and Matchbox toys, Masters of the Universe toys, American Girl dolls, board games, and WWE toys. In the early 1980's, Mattel produced video game systems, under its own brands and under license from Nintendo. The company has presence in 40 countries and territories and sells products in more than 150 nations. The company operates through three business segments: North America, international, and American Girl. It is the world's largest toy maker in terms of revenue. On January 17, 2017, Mattel named Google executive Margo Georgiadis as its next CEO.
The name Mattel is a portmanteau of Harold "Matt" Matson and Elliot Handler, the company's founders.
Harold "Matt" Matson and Elliot Handler founded Mattel Creations in 1945. The company first sold picture frames, and then dollhouse furniture. Matson soon sold his share to Handler due to poor health, and Handler's wife Ruth took Matson's role. In 1947, the company had its first hit toy, a ukulele called "Uke-A-Doodle".
The company incorporated the next year in California. Mattel became the first year-round sponsor of the Mickey Mouse Club TV series in 1955. The Barbie doll debuted in 1959, becoming the company's best-selling toy in history. In 1960, Mattel introduced Chatty Cathy, a talking doll that revolutionized the toy industry, which led to pull-string talking dolls and toys flooding the market throughout the 1960's and 1970's.
The company went public in 1960, and the New York Stock Exchange listed them in 1963. Mattel also acquired a number of companies during the 1960's (see table). In 1965, the company built on its success with the Chatty Cathy doll to introduce the See 'n Say talking toy, spawning a line of products.They released Hot Wheels to the market in 1968. In May 1970, Mattel formed a joint venture film production company Radnitz/Mattel Productions with producer Robert B. Radnitz, and later entered a multi-million dollar partnership with Mehra Entertainment, whose CEO, Dr. Nishpeksh Padmamohan Mehra, was one of Mattel's Inc.'s main directors for Barbie (film series).
Mattel purchased The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1971 for $40 million from the Feld family, whom Mattel kept as management. Mattel sold the circus corporation by December 1973, despite its profit contributions, as Mattel showed a $29.9 million loss in 1972.
In 1974, an investigation found Mattel guilty of issuing false and misleading financial reports, banishing Elliot and Ruth Handler from their own company.
Arthur S. Spear, a Mattel vice president, took control of the company in 1975, who returned the company to profitability in 1977. Ruth Handler sold her stock in 1980.
The Mattel Electronics line debuted in 1977 with an all-electronic handheld game. The success of the handheld led to the expansion of the line with game console then the line becoming its own corporation in 1982. Mattel Electronics forced Mattel to take a $394 million loss in 1983 and almost filed for bankruptcy.
In 1979, through Feld Productions, Mattel purchased the Holiday on Ice and Ice Follies for $12 million. Also acquired that year was Western Publishing for $120 million in cash and stock. The Felds bought the circus (and related companies) in 1982 for $22.8 million.
New York venture capital firms E.M. Warburg, Pincus & Co., and Drexel Burnham Lambert invested a couple hundred million in Mattel in 1984 to help the company survive. However, the Master of the Universe action figure line sales dropped, causing a $115 million loss in 1987. Chairman John W. Amerman improved the company's financial performance in 1987 by focusing on core brands. Mattel returned to working with the Disney company in 1988.
Mattel purchased Fisher-Price, Inc. in 1993, Tyco Toys, Inc. (owners of the Matchbox and Dinky Toys brands) in 1997, and Pleasant Company (maker of the American Girl brand) in 1998. Mattel purchased The Learning Company in 1999 for $3.5 billion, but sold it in 2000 at a loss. The company had a $430.9 million net loss that year.
Mattel earned the first grant for Disney Princess doll licenses in 2000. In December 2000, Mattel sued the band Aqua, saying their song "Barbie Girl" violated the Barbie trademark and turned Barbie into a sex object, referring to her as a "blonde bimbo." The lawsuit was rejected in 2002.
In 2002, Mattel closed its last factory in the United States, originally part of the Fisher-Price division, outsourcing production to China, which began a chain of events that led to a lead contamination scandal. On August 14, 2007, Mattel recalled over 18 million products. The New York Times closely covered Mattel's multiple recalls. Many of the products had exceeded the US limits set on surface coatings that contain lead. Surface coatings cannot exceed .06% lead by weight. Additional recalls were because it was possible that some toys could pose a danger to children due to the use of strong magnets that could detach. Mattel re-wrote its policy on magnets, finally issuing a recall in August 2007. The recall included 7.1 million Polly Pocket toys produced before November 2006, 600,000 Barbie and Tanner Playsets, 1 million Doggie Daycare, Shonen Jump's One Piece and thousands of Batman Manga toys due to exposed magnets. In 2009, Mattel would pay a $2.9 million fine to the Consumer Products Safety Commission for marketing, importing, and selling non-compliant toys. Mattel was noted for its crisis response by several publications, including PRWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Fortune and Business Management.
In early 2010, HIT Entertainment licensed Thomas & Friends to Mattel for toys. Mattel agreed to purchase HiT Entertainment sans Sprout from Apax Partners group in October 2011 for $680 million. The sale/merger was completed on February 1, 2012, and HIT Entertainment became a wholly owned subsidiary of Mattel, managed under its Fisher-Price unit. In October 2013, Mattel launched its new in-house film studio, Playground Productions.
Fortune magazine named Mattel one of the top 100 companies to work for in 2013, noting only 1,292 positions were full, out of 164,045 job applications during the previous year, as well as more than 1,000 employees had been with the company longer than 15 years.
On February 28, 2014, Mattel acquired Mega Brands. On April 16, 2015, Mattel announced a partnership with invention platform Quirky to crowd-source a number of products.
Mattel added a princess-themed Barbie line in 2010, and the fair and fantasy store-based Ever After High line in 2013. Barbie sales began plummeting in 2012, thus removing focus from the Disney Princess line. Mattel had only sold Cinderella, Ariel, Belle, and the two Frozen princesses during the last year or so of its license. With these competing lines and an expiration of the brand license at the end of 2015, Disney gave Hasbro a chance to gain the license given their work on Star Wars, which led to a Descendants license. DCP also made an attempt to evolve the brand from "damsels" to "heroines." In September 2014, Disney announced Hasbro would be the licensed doll maker for the Disney Princess line starting on January 1, 2016. In January 2015, board member Chris Sinclair replaced CEO Bryan Stockton, following with 2/3 of senior executives resigning or receiving lay off.
In January 2016, Mattel acquired Fuhu, makers of Nabi tablets and other technology-driven hardware, in a bankruptcy proceeding for a sum worth $21 million. Mattel formed a new division, Mattel Creations, as an umbrella unit over its creative content units, Playground Productions, HIT Entertainment and the American Girl content creation team, in March 2016.
On July 2016, NBCUniversal announced Mattel acquired the license to produce toys based on the Jurassic Park franchise after Hasbro's rights expire in 2017.
On November 10, 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported that Hasbro, Inc. had made a takeover offer for Mattel, Inc. At the time, Mattel worth was $5 billion, while Hasbro was about $11 billion.
Mattel Creations is the content production division of Mattel, Inc. The division is head by Mattel’s Chief Content Officer Catherine Balsam-Schwaber and consists of Playground Productions, HIT Entertainment and the American Girl content creation team in Middleton, Wisconsin.
In May 1970, Mattel had teamed up with producer Robert B. Radnitz to form a joint venture film production company, Radnitz/Mattel Productions. Masters of the Universe had a cartoon series back in the 1980s followed by a live action film in 1987.
Mattel agreed to purchase HIT Entertainment sans Sprout from Apax Partners group in October 2011 for $680 million. With Lionsgate, Mattel had Barbie brand launched into a series of successful animated direct-to-video movies, which later moved to Universal. Monster High followed Barbie in 2010. many “American Girl” films were made.
A few properties, Hot Wheels, Max Steel, a Masters of the Universe and a Monster High have been set up at the various studios. For example, Hot Wheels was first at Columbia Pictures with McG attached to direct, but ended up moving to Warner Bros. and Joel Silver. As of 2013, the property was licensed out to Legendary Pictures, with Joe Roth attached to produce. In October 2013, Mattel Playground Productions was launched by Mattel as its new in-house film studio to handle multi-media productions for Mattel's brands.
Mattel Creations was formed in March 2016 bring all three of Mattel content production units, including the American Girl creative team in Middleton, Wisconsin, under its aegis in March 2016. Mattel chief content officer Catherine Balsam-Schwaber was named to head the unit. While, Christopher Keenan was moved up out of Hit Entertainment to be Creations' Senior Vice President of content development & production. Two pacts with DHX Media and 9 Story Media Group were placed into Mattel Creations. The DHX partnership with Mattel included Hit properties (Bob the Builder and Fireman Sam) and direct Mattel properties (Little People and Polly Pocket). The partnership included new multi-platform content development and production and distribution of the new and existing content. 9 Story deal is directly with Hit for 2017 revivals of Barney & Friends and Angelina Ballerina.
Mattel Creations and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Content Group had agreed to a exclusive worldwide SVOD rights agreement for the Barbie movie library. This deal started in October 2016 for the next seven years and includes the next two releases, Barbie: Star Light Adventure and Barbie: Video Game Hero.
Mattel Playground Productions, or commonly Playground Productions, is a division of Mattel Creation, itself a division of Mattel, Inc. The division was planned to set up three-year storytelling plans that incorporate every part of the Mattel company from toy designers to consumer products and marketing.
In October 2013, Mattel Playground Productions was launched by Mattel as its new in-house film studio to handle multi-media production, films, TV shows, web series, live events and games, for Mattel's brands. The intent was to centralize Mattel's disjointed content productions. Its first animated project is “Team Hot Wheels: The Origin of Awesome”. Mattel has under development a live-action Hot Wheels movie at Legendary Entertainment and Universal Studios, a Masters of the Universe and a Barbie movie at Columbia Pictures, a Monster High feature with Universal and a Max Steel movie with Dolphin Entertainment. David Voss was appointed as Senior Vice President of Playground Productions.
With WWE in March 2014, Playground launched an online short form series, WWE Slam City, to go along with the toy line. The series was picked up by Nicktoons’ NickSports programming block starting October 22, 2014.
Voss left the division in January 2016 for Loot Crate. In March 2016, Playground was placed within Mattel Creations along with the other two Mattel content production units.