April 20, 2011

Laser Pegs

State Court Ends Mattel/MGA Lawsuit

As reported in the StarTribune last week, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mel Red Recana tossed out a lawsuit by Mattel, Inc. that accuses MGA Entertainment, Inc. of fraudulently transferring millions in funds to avoid paying anticipated judgments in litigation over ownership of the Bratz doll line. The lawsuit claimed that MGA transferred $430 million in dividends and other assets to CEO Issac Larian, his family members, and various trusts between 2004 and 2008 to make the company appear insolvent and prevent MGA’s creditors, including Mattel, from cashing in.
Mattel filed its complaint in September in the run-up to a federal copyright infringement and trade secrets trial over who owns the Bratz brand. In addition to Mattel’s claims, jurors in the federal case are also considering a countersuit by MGA that accuses Mattel of hiring corporate spies to obtain information about MGA’s upcoming toy lines at trade shows. MGA is seeking damages of up to $200 million in that case.
Jurors are currently deliberating on claims from both sides in a retrial that lasted three months.

Tatty Teddy Partners for Plush in the U.S.

Taty TeddyTatty Teddy is headed to North America with a licensing agreement between UK-based Carte Blanche Greeting, Ltd.’s brand Me to You and U.S. plush toy firm Douglas.
Douglas will produce and distribute the Me to You brand’s Tatty Teddy bears, targeting premium retail stores throughout the U.S. and Canada. In addition to everyday offerings, the Tatty Teddy collection will include products for key seasons, including Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day.




Worms Franchise Available for Licensing in the U.S.

WormsAT New Media, the worldwide licensing agency for the Worms video game franchise, has appointed The Sharpe Company as its North American representative on behalf of UK-based brand owner Team17 Software Ltd.
Worms, which celebrated its 15th anniversary last year, is a series of best-selling turn-based strategy video games. The games feature colorful, cartoon-style action, cute characters, and a variety of hilarious weapons. Players control a small platoon of anarchic yet charming worms across a deformable landscape, battling other computer or player-controlled teams.
Key features of the series include the ability to customize the worms with hats, hair, hands, and glasses; an extensive variety of weaponry, including exploding Sheep, Banana Bombs, the Holy Hand Grenade, and a mythical Concrete Donkey; and its catch phrases provided by the worms during battle.
Major future games releases are planned on the App Store, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, PC, and also on Facebook and other online social networking platforms.
Sharpe is actively seeking U.S. licensing partners in all categories, including collectibles, video game and computer peripherals, stationery, giftware, calendars, apparel, puzzles, and board games.

California Creations to Produce Uglydoll Wind-Up Toys

Uglydoll Wind-Up ToysCalifornia Creations, the company behind collectible wind-up toys Z WindUps, is partnering with Pretty Ugly, LLC to produce customized Uglydoll wind-up toys. This is the first time California Creations has teamed up with an outside company to create custom wind-ups. The Uglydoll wind-up family will include a variety of colors and styles that crawl, walk, and dance.


Upper Deck to Release Trading Cards Based on Marvel Characters

Marvel CardsThe Upper Deck Company, in conjunction with Marvel Entertainment, Inc., has announced plans to produce and distribute a trading card project called “The Avengers: Kree-Skrull War.” Resurrecting a previously published story arc around Marvel characters Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and Vision, the 190-card set will have one original main story and four original side stories that will share the untold tales from the Kree-Skrull War. “The Avengers: Kree-Skrull War” set is slated to hit hobby stores in July.




LazyTown Launches First App

LazytownLazyTown Entertainment is launching its first iPad app, called LazyTown’s BooClips, developed by Castle Builders, an Israel-based technology company.
The BooClips are the new way to read books with a variety of fantastic features; word for word narration, voiceover recording button, 3D, sign language interpretation, translation to different languages, easy navigation between pages, an animated magnifying glass, a bookmark that remembers where the reading was stopped for the next time the app is running, and other features easily accessible with the touch of a finger.
Castle Builders intends to release app updates for the LazyTown BooClips app in order to enrich the app with more features, which are currently in development, and to add more LazyTown books.
The app is offered with a free trial and could be found on the Apple Appstore, LazyTown’s website and at BooClips.com.

Guinness World Records Partners with Cedar Fair Parks

Guinness World RecordsCedar Fair Entertainment Company is partnering with Guinness World Records’ new division, GWR Live!, for a summer-long series at the company’s amusement parks across North America.
During the summer, official Guinness World Records adjudicators will be present at Cedar Point, Knott’s Berry Farm, Kings Island, Canada’s Wonderland, Kings Dominion, Carowinds, Dorney Park, California’s Great America, Worlds of Fun, and Valleyfair amusement parks, to officiate a variety of record attempts by both guests and the parks. The Cedar Fair “Summer of Records” will kick off this month at Carowinds amusement park in Charlotte, N.C. with a record attempt for the most people dyeing Easter eggs.

Spin Master Partners with Canadian Youth Business Foundation

Spin Master, Ltd. will be hosting a press conference announcing a partnership between the company and the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF). The government of Canada officially designated 2011 as the “Year of the Entrepreneur,” and in the spirit the companies will launch a comprehensive program that will support the next generation of innovative entrepreneurs in Canadian business. The press conference will be held April 27 at 10 a.m. at the Spin Master head office in Toronto (450 Front St. West). Executives slated to attend include Ronnen Harary, Spin Master co-CEO and chairman; Anton Rabie, Spin Master co-CEO and president; Harold Chizick, Spin Master’s vice president of global communications; and Vivian Prokop, CEO of the Canadian Youth Business Foundation.

Buffalo Games to Offer Rebate to Tyson Foods Customers

Buffalo Games is teaming up with Tyson Foods for a six-month national campaign to promote friends, food, and fun. As part of the promotion, scheduled to run from May 28 to November 30, Buffalo Games will offer $2 off its party games Last Word, Likewise, and/or Truth Be Told, via a mail-in rebate program. Stickers featuring the games will be placed on packages and in-store point-of-sale displays and coupons, as well as counter cards and window clings in more than 3,000 retail outlets and supermarket delis where Tyson Chicken Tenders are sold. Promotional marketing agency Envision Promotions, based in Dublin, Ohio, developed and brokered the partnership.


JPMA Announces New Board of Directors

The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) has announced its newly elected board of directors for 2011-2012. Newly elected Chairman Jason Macari of Summer Infant Products, succeeds now Immediate Past Chair Brenda Berg of Scandinavian Child. Kelly Mariotti of Green Frog Art was elected vice chair and Dave Taylor of Dorel Juvenile Group was elected treasurer.  
Joining the board are incoming directors Mark Messner of Chicco USA, Greg Schumann of The Parenting Group, Andy Keimach of Munchkin, and Ken Wittenauer of Britax.  
Directors continuing to serve include Ellen Diamant of Skip Hop, Scott Doerstling of Sunshine Kids, Luanne Lager of Regal Lager, Michael Magee of Graco Children’s Products, and Keith Schneider of PEM America.

Kidlandia’s New Executive Appointments

Kidlandia, an online destination for personalized gifts and entertainment for kids, has recently named Michael Chanover, former global creative director of LeapFrog, as Kidlandia’s vice president of product. In this role, Chanover is responsible for the integrated design, development, and rollout of both physical and digitals products for Kidlandia Kreechurs, as well as Kidlandia’s licensed intellectual properties.
In addition, Don Traeger, former founder and vice president of development for the Sports franchise for Electronic Arts, joins Kidlandia as director of mobile development.

Mattel Reports First Quarter Results

Mattel, Inc. has reported its 2011 first quarter financial results. For the quarter, the company reported net income of $16.6 million, or $0.05 per share, compared to last year’s first quarter net income of $24.8 million, or $0.07 per share.
For the quarter, net sales were $951.9 million, up 8 percent compared to $880.1 million last year, including favorable changes in currency exchange rates of 1 percentage point. On a regional basis, first quarter gross sales increased 7 percent in the U.S. and 10 percent in international markets, including favorable changes in currency exchange rates of 2 percentage points. Operating income for the quarter was $36.8 million, compared to prior year’s operating income for the quarter of $45.2 million.
The company’s debt-to-total-capital ratio was 32.3 percent. Consistent with the seasonality of the business, during the quarter the company’s cash and equivalents declined by approximately $232 million, compared with a decline of approximately $245 million in last year’s first quarter. Net cash flows used for operating activities were
approximately $42 million, a decrease of $203 million compared with approximately $245 million in 2010. The decrease is primarily due to the collection of $300 million of domestic receivables not factored in 2010, partially offset by higher working capital usage. Cash flows used for financing and other activities were $181 million, a decrease of $216 million, compared to approximately $35 million provided by financing activities in 2010, primarily reflecting share repurchases and first quarter dividend payments.

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