Mattel, Inc. 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. The products and brands it produces include Fisher-Price, Barbie dolls, Monster High dolls, Winx Club dolls, Hot Wheels and Matchbox toys, Masters of the Universe, American Girl dolls, board games, and WWE Toys. In the early-1980s Mattel produced video game systems, under both 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.
The company's name is derived from Harold "Matt" Matson and Elliot Handler, who founded the company in 1945.
Mattel Creations was founded in 1945 by Harold "Matt" Matson and Elliot Handler. The company initially sold picture frames, then dollhouse furniture. Matson soon sold his share to Handler due to poor health, and Handler's wife Ruth took over Matson's role. In 1947, the company had its first hit toy, a ukulele called "Uke-A-Doodle". The company was 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 was introduced in 1959, becoming the company's best selling toy ever. In 1960 Mattel introduced Chatty Cathy, a talking doll that revolutionized the toy industry, and a flood of pull-string talking dolls and toys came on the market throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Mattel in 1960 goes public and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1963. Mattel also acquired a number of companies during the 1960s (see table). Hot Wheels was first released to the market to 1968.
The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was purchased by the Mattel company in 1971 for $40 million from the Feld family, who was retained as management. Mattel had placed the circus corporation up for sale despite its profit contributions to Mattel by December 1973 as Mattel showed a $29.9 million loss in 1972.
An investigation in 1974 concluded false and misleading financial reports had been issued, and the Handlers were forced from the company.
Arthur S. Spear, a Mattel vice president was selected to run the company in 1975 and lead it back to profitability in 1977. Ruth Handler sold back her stock in 1980.
The Mattel Electronics line was started in 1977 with an all-electronic handheld game. The success of the handheld lead to the expansion of the line with game console then the line becoming its own corporation in 1982.
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.
Mattel first sold home video game consoles in the 1980s but took a $394 million loss in 1983 and almost filed for bankruptcy. The Felds bought the circus (and related companies) back 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. But then the Master of the Universe action figure line sales dropped off causing a loss of $115 million in 1987. Chairman John W. Amerman improved the company's financial performance in 1987 by focusing on core brands. Mattel also returned to working with the Disney company in 1988.
Mattel purchased Fisher-Price Inc. in 1993, Tyco Toys, Inc. 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.
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 scandal involving lead contamination.
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 Magazine 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.
Mattel was named by Fortune magazine as one of the top 100 companies to work for in 2013, noting that only 1,292 positions were newly filled out of 164,045 job applications during the previous year, as well as the fact that more than 1,000 employees have been with the company longer than 15 years.
In October 2013, Mattel launched its new in-house film studio, Playground Productions, to handle multi-media production, films, TV shows, web series, live events and games, for Mattel's brands. 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, a Masters of the Universe movie at Columbia, a Monster High feature with Universal and a Max Steel movie with Dolphin Entertainment.
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.
- Kettelkamp, Sean; Chatty Cathy and Her Talking Friends, Schiffer Publishing (1998)