Toys R Back?
Not quite, but the first signs of how the financial firms who carved up Toys R Us plan to resurrect the iconic brand from the ashes of its bankruptcy and liquidation have started to emerge.
The lenders who own a key piece of the old Toys R Us have revealed that they are keeping the corporate brand names and intellectual properties, including Geoffrey, the brand's giraffe mascot, and are dipping their toes back in the toy business with a wholesale venture called Geoffrey's Toy Box.
That new venture, for the time being, is being operated out of the Toys R Us headquarters building in Wayne, where a small number of former Toys R Us executives and employees continue to report to work.
Geoffrey, LLC, a subsidiary of Toys R Us that owns the companies intellectual property rights, and controlled by lender groups that provided financing during the bankruptcy and that have been criticized for the role they played in the shutdown, issued a press release late Tuesday saying it is working on a plan that could bring "new and re-imagined Toys R Us and Babies R Us stores" back to the United States.
Geoffrey's Toy Box also introduced itself to toy manufacturers and sellers Tuesday at the opening of the Dallas toy show, with an exhibit booth. The company describes itself in the show brochure as a "Wholesale toy distributor and intellectual property company whose focus is on popular play patterns across trusted brands that kids and parents love."
James Zahn, a toy reviewer and publisher of The Rock Father magazine reported Tuesday that a Geoffrey costumed mascot was roaming the aisles of the Dallas toy show wearing a cape with the words "Back From Vacation", with a sign advertising the Geoffrey Toy Box booth.
Zahn also noted that the Toys R Us Twitter account has recently been cleaned up, and all references to liquidation deleted.
Trade publication The Toy Book reported Tuesday night that Richard Barry, the chief merchandising officer for the old Toys R Us, said that the new company is exploring "stores within stores" partnerships with large retailers. Barry's business card now has a Geoffrey's Toy Box logo.
Toys R Us opted to close all of its stores after lenders backing the bankruptcy financing said they had lost confidence in the company's reorganization plan. All of the stores closed by the end of June.
The lender group told the bankruptcy court in a document filed Monday that it had cancelled an auction for the brand names and intellectual properties that had been scheduled for Thursday. The group also said that while it had received bids for the properties, it believed that keeping the property rights and launching a branding business and possible retail operation would produce greater financial returns.
The group told the bankruptcy court it envisions "a new, operating Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us branding company that maintains existing global license agreements and can invest in and create new, domestic, retail operating businesses under the Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us names, as well as expand its international presence and further develop its private brands business."
Bloomberg News reported Tuesday that the Geoffrey LLC group includes the Solus Alternative Asset Management and Angelo Gordon funds. The brand names and intellectual property rights served as collateral to secure loans backed by the lender group.
Solus and Angelo Gordon has been criticized by worker groups for refusing to contribute to a fund for laid off Toys R Us employees. Workers appeared before the New Jersey State Investment Council last week to urge the state to withdraw its $300 million investment with Solus.
Geoffrey LLC owns the rights to more than 20 toy and baby brands Toys R Us sold as part of its private label merchandise, including Imaginarium, Koala Baby, Fastlane and Journey Girls. It could continue supplying those products on a wholesale basis.
It also owns the rights to the Toys R Us and Babies R Us names in all countries except for Canada, and baby and gift registries operated by the former company.
The Geoffrey LLC plan is subject to final approval by the bankruptcy court.
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