Mattel, Inc.
Type Public company
NASDAQ-100 Component
S&P 500 Component
Industry Toys and games
Founded 1945
Founder(s) Harold Matson
Elliot Handler
Headquarters El Segundo, California, US
Key people Robert A. Eckert
(Chairman and CEO)
Revenue increase US$ 5.856 billion (2010)[1]
Operating income increase US$ 901.9 million (2010)[1]
Net income increase US$ 684.9 million (2010)[1]
Total assets increase US$ 5.418 billion (2010)[1]
Total equity increase US$ 2.629 billion (2010)[1]
Employees 31,000 (December 2010)[1]
Mattel headquarters in El Segundo

Mattel, Inc. (pronounced /məˈtɛl/; NASDAQMAT) is the world's largest toy company based on revenue.[2] The products it produces include Fisher Price, Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels and Matchbox toys, Masters of the Universe, American Girl dolls, board games, and, in the early 1980s, video game consoles. The company's name is derived from Harold "Matt" Matson and Elliot Handler, who founded the company in 1945. Handler's wife, Ruth Handler, later became president, and is credited with establishing the Barbie product line for the company in 1959. After the release of the Barbie doll, Mattel revolutionized the toy industry with its talking dolls and toys. Major successes in the 1960s with the talking Chatty Cathy doll in 1960 and See 'N Say toys in 1965 moved Mattel to its position as the number one toymaker in America. Mattel closed its last factory in the United States of America, originally part of the Fisher-Price division, in 2002, outsourcing production to China, the beginning of a chain of events that led to a scandal involving lead contamination.[3] On Friday, September 3, 2010 a small-scale "Flash Crash" appears to have occurred in Mattel shares which plunged 22% in pre-market trade for no apparent reason, only to recover shortly thereafter.[4]


Corporate governance

Board of directors

Current members of the board of directors of Mattel Inc. are:

  • Robert A. Eckert, chairman
  • Tully Friedman
  • Michael Dolan
  • Vasant Prabhu
  • Dominic Ng
  • Andrea Rich
  • Ronald Sargent
  • Christopher A. Sinclair
  • G. Craig Sullivan
  • John Vogelstein
  • Kathy Whit

Corporate responsibility

Mattel announced its Global Manufacturing Principles (GMP)[5] in 1997, designed to set safe and fair treatment of employees.[citation needed]

In 2003, Mattel issued its first Global Reporting Initiative report[6] to publicly assess the success of the GMP and commit to improvements. Simultaneous to this report, Mattel issued their 2004 Corporate Responsibility[7] report, the first to be issued by a toy company.[citation needed] From both the 2004 and 2007 reports, a majority percentages of Mattel-owned facilities are regularly audited, it can be seen that Mattel has room to expand its supply chain auditing.[8]

Following the high-profile recalls of 2007, Mattel appointed Geoff Massingberd as Vice President of Corporate Responsibility,[9] to lead development and implementation of programs business integrity.

Asia Pulp and Paper Controversy

On June 8, 2011, Greenpeace launched "Barbie, It's Over", an international campaign criticising Mattel's use of Asia Pulp & Paper's products in its packaging, particularly in its line of Barbie products.[10] Greenpeace accuses Asia Pulp & Paper of clearing Indonesian rainforests and threatening species native to those rainforests.[11] Within two days of the campaign's start, Mattel ordered its packaging suppliers to stop buying from Asia Pulp & Paper pending an investigation into Greenpeace's deforestation allegations, and further ordered its suppliers to report on how they source materials.[12]

The Learning Company acquisition

In May 1999, at the height of the dot-com bubble, Mattel acquired The Learning Company for $3.5 billion in stock[13] or 4.5 times annual sales.[14] The Learning Company was considered at the time one of the leading entertainment and educational software companies, owner of such titles as Reader Rabbit, Carmen Sandiego, Myst, Riven, and National Geographic,[15] but had in 1997 accumulated losses of $475 million.[16] Mattel thought that this acquisition would help business diversification by giving the company a leading position in the market of consumer software.[17] Mattel CEO Jill Barad expected to have direct internet sales for all Mattel's toys and predicted that Mattel sales over the Internet would reach $1 billion in a few years.[16]

In the third quarter of 1999, Mattel expected The Learning Company to post $50 million in profits but in reality it posted losses of $105 million.[14] Despite this loss, CEO Jill Barad continued to be optimistic. Things worsened in the fourth quarter, as The Learning Company's pre-tax losses reached $183 million. For the year The Learning Company's pre-taxes losses were $206 million,[18] on revenues of $750 million.[17] The Learning Company's losses depressed Mattel's 1999 profits and as a result, Mattel posted a $82 million net loss compared to a $206 million net income in 1998.[18] Mattel also warned that it would take a revamping charge of $75 million to $100 million in the first quarter of 2000 because of The Learning Company.[19]

By 2000, Mattel was losing $1.5 million a day with The Learning Company,[20] and Mattel's stock price (which reached a high of $45 in March 1998) traded at $11 in February 2000.[19] Under pressure, on February 3, Mattel's CEO Jill Barad resigned but received a $50 million severance package.[21] In April Mattel announced that it was selling The Learning Company; analysts predicted that The Learning Company could be sold for $400 million, then for $200 million.[13] In the end, in October, The Learning Company was sold to Gores Technology for nothing other than a percentage of The Learning Company's future profits.[21] In addition Mattel cut 10% of its workforce to further cut costs.[21] As a result of this restructuring Mattel posted a net loss of $430 million for the year 2000.[22]

Product recall

On August 2, 2007, Mattel's Fisher-Price subsidiary recalled almost one million Chinese-made toys, including Dora the Explorer and Sesame Street toys, because of potential hazards from parts of the toys which were colored using lead-based paint that may have exceeded the US Federal limit of 600 parts per million.[23][24]

In worst cases, Mattel toys' lead in paint was found to be 180 times the limit.[25] The paint on the toys was up to 11% lead, or 110,000 parts per million. U.S. Federal law allows just 0.06% lead, or 600 parts per million. Children who suck on or ingest toys or jewelry with high lead content may be poisoned, which can lead to learning and behavior problems, even death in some cases.[25]

On August 14, 2007, Mattel recalled over 18 million products because it was possible that they could pose a danger to children due to the use of strong magnets that may detach. Strong small magnets could be dangerous to the children if two or more were ingested, attracting each other in the intestines and causing damage. Some instances were reported. A child swallowed a Polly Pocket toy magnet and had to undergo a surgery. At the time of the recall, none of the U.S. or European safety legislation and standards addressed the specific hazard of strong magnets. Some of the products had been available in U.S. stores since 2003, during which time Mattel did not consider them harmful enough to warrant a recall. After incidents with similar magnetic toy parts being swallowed, causing perforation of the intestines, Mattel re-wrote its policy on magnets, finally issuing this recall in August 2007.[26]

Recalled items included die-cast Cars character, Sarge, made between May and July 2007, found to have been manufactured using paint containing higher than acceptable levels of lead (436,000 recalled globally), 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.[26] 18.2 million items were recalled in total.

Zhang Shuhong, co-owner of the Lee Der Toy Company, which had made a number of toys for Mattel, committed suicide by hanging himself at one of his company's factories in Foshan on August 11, 2007, according to authorities.[27] Lee Der ceased business.[28]

On September 4, 2007, Mattel recalled a further 530,000 affected toys in the United States – and 318,000 outside the United States – after its intensive testing found that the Chinese-made products contained levels of lead in painted parts that were above the acceptable limit set by the company. This third recall in a month included accessories for Barbie dolls and Fisher-Price toys.[29]

On June 5, 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Commission fined Mattel and its Fisher-Price division $2.3 million dollars for violation of Code 16 of Federal Regulations CFR 1303, the Federal lead paint ban. While Mattel agreed to the fine, no wrong doing was admitted on the companies part.[30]

Among others, Fortune magazine rated the debacle involving recalls of Chinese products, including Mattel's products, as one of the 'Dumbest Moments' in business for 2007.[31]

Mattel's response

Mattel has increased audits and testing of all products. In August 2007, CEO Robert Eckert said, "We were let down, and so we let you down," referring to the three massive product recalls for lead contamination of paint.

On September 21, 2007, Mattel's Executive Vice-President for worldwide operations, Thomas Debrowski, traveled to Beijing. In a meeting with China's product safety chief, Li Chanjiang, Debrowski took full responsibility for the magnet recalls and said that, "vast majority of those products that were recalled were the result of a design flaw in Mattel's design, not through a manufacturing flaw in China’s manufacturers."[32][33][34] Reading a prepared text, he continued, "Mattel takes full responsibility for these recalls and apologises personally to you, the Chinese people, and all of your customers who received the toys."[35]


In March 2005, Mattel partnered with Oasys Mobile to extend their market into the mobile field. The partnership was announced on March 16, 2005 and gave Oasys Mobile the right to produce games on such licenses as UNO, Ker Plunk!, Toss Across, and Rock'em Sock'em Robots.[36] Since then the two have worked together to add such licenses as the Barbie, Magic 8 Ball and Max Steel IPs to Oasys' portfolio. These subsequent partnerships also extended the territories in which they could market their products. The new markets included Japan and Taiwan for the Barbie license and Japan, China, Korea, India, and the Philippines for the UNO license.[37] In late 2009, Mattel signed a deal to make WWE toys from 2010. The deal has proven to be successful for WWE, garnering nearly $52 million in toy and related merchandise sales in 2010, compared to $44.7 million the previous year.[38]


Some of the lawsuits involving Mattel are as follows:

  • Keller Rohrback L.L.P. Files Suit Against Mattel, Inc. for Selling Toys Covered in Lead Paint[39]
  • Mattel Lawsuit Seeks Lead Tests for Children.[40] Class action wants toymaker to pay for medical testing.
  • Family files suit against maker of Polly Pocket after son undergoes surgery[41]
  • Mattel against Winx Club.[citation needed]
  • Shareholders File Lawsuit Against Mattel Over Toy Recalls[citation needed]
  • Mattel sued the band Aqua, saying their song violated the Barbie trademark and turned Barbie into a sex object, referring to her as a "Blonde Bimbo." The lawsuit was finally rejected in 2002.[42]
  • Mattel was involved in legal proceedings with Super Duper Publications in an attempt to suppress Super Duper's use of the words "and say" in their therapy products. Super Duper Publications specializes in materials for use in special education classrooms but Mattel accused Super Duper of diluting their "See N' Say" product line.[43] Mattel won the legal battle and was awarded $400,000 in penalties. They are now seeking millions of dollars to pay for their legal expenses and costs.[44]
  • Mattel Inc. defeated MGA Entertainment Inc. in a conflict over the creation of the Bratz doll line. The U.S. District Court in Riverside ruled that Bratz designer CEO, Carter Bryant, violated the terms of his exclusivity contract with Mattel. It was decided that he created the Bratz doll concept while he was working for Mattel. This decision will lead to the possibility for Mattel to claim right to the Bratz doll line as well as the right to receive damages.[45]
  • Mattel Inc VS Playing Mantis. In the mid-1990s, Playing Mantis released a line of rechargeable cars which were a direct copy of the 1970s Mattel Hotwheels Sizzlers with the same name. The merchandise was quickly removed from store shelves. Mattel won the case, however the payout from Playing Mantis remains unknown. Mattel has since re-released its own line of Sizzlers through an exclusive deal with Target Stores.
  • Mattel Inc VS MGA Entertainment. In April of 2011, Mattel was forced to pay $88.5 million to MGA Entertainment in a dispute over the Bratz line of dolls. In the court ruling, the judges found that Mattel did not own drawings of Bratz dolls. The Bratz dolls hurt the sales of Barbie dolls significantly over the period of time that the Bratz dolls were on the market.[46]


Mattel distributed Nintendo's products in Canada from 1986 to 1990, the UK until 1990 when Nintendo Computer Entertainment UK was established, and Australia from 1987 to early 1994 when Hiroshi Yamauchi opened Nintendo Australia Pty Ltd, Nintendo's only privately owned subsidiary and had Susumu Tanaka from Nintendo UK Ltd and Graham Kerry from Mattel Australia Pty Ltd as the first Managing Directors of the subsidiary.

Mattel's international revenue accounts for 49% of its gross sale in 2007, coming from regions like Europe, Latin America and Asia.

Mattel's International Sales Revenue by Geographical Regions in 2007[47]

See also

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  20. ^ "Technology Briefing: Software; Former Mattel Learning Company Unit Improves". The New York Times. March 6, 2001. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
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  22. ^ "2000 Annual Shareholder Report" (PDF). March 22, 2001. Archived from the original on April 9, 2008. Retrieved July 31, 2008. 
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  28. ^ Brand China' at risk after toy recall – Quentin Somerville, BBC News. August 15, 2007. Accessed: September 5, 2007.[dead link]
  29. ^ Mattel corporate website. September 4, 2007. Accessed: 2007-09-05. Archived September 27, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ Kavilanz, Parija B. (June 5, 2009). "Mattel fined $2.3 million over lead in toys". CNN/Money. Retrieved July 18, 2009. 
  31. ^ "101 Dumbest Moments in Business – 1. China". Fortune. January 16, 2008. Retrieved July 31, 2008. 
  32. ^ Mattel Apologizes to China Over Recalls[dead link]
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  35. ^ "Mattel apologizes to China". CBS News. September 22, 2007. 
  36. ^ Summus and Mattel Join Forces to Deliver Classic Games to Wireless – Mobile Game Developer Magazine
  37. ^ "Bnet financial statement on Mattel Partnership". 2007. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  38. ^ Graser, Marc (August 11, 2011). "WWE's toys get a grip", Variety. Retrieved September 12, 2011.
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  40. ^ ""Lawsuit Seeks Lead Tests "". August 21, 2007. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  41. ^ "Lawsuit Filed against Mattel in Polly Pocket Recall". Law Offices of James Scott Farrin. November 22, 2006. Retrieved July 31, 2008. [dead link]
  42. ^ "Barbie loses battle over bimbo image". BBC News. July 25, 2002. Retrieved August 8, 2007. 
  43. ^ "Small Special Education Company Battles Mattel Over Right to Use the Words "AND SAY" on Its Products". Mass Media Distribution Wire. May 8, 2008. Retrieved May 14, 2008. 
  44. ^ "Mattel's "Spin" – Blame Small Special Education Company Super Duper – They Made Us Sue Them". Mass Media Distribution Wire. May 19, 2008. Retrieved May 19, 2008. 
  45. ^ Colker, David (July 18, 2008). "Mattel wins important verdict in Bratz dolls case". Los Angeles Times.,0,5325580.story. Retrieved July 18, 2008. 
  46. ^
  47. ^ Breakdown of gross sales by international geographical markets from company 20Fs

External links

Kettelkamp, Sean: Chatty Cathy and Her Talking Friends; Schiffer Publishing (1998)

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