Charles Lazarus, the founder of Toys R Us, has died at the age of 94, the company announced on Thursday.
Lazarus left Toy R Us 20 years ago.
In 1948, Charles Lazarus returned from World War II and heard all of his war buddies saying the same thing – that they were heading home to get married and start having children. His instincts told him it was a good time to open a store that sold baby carriages, cribs, and bassinets, he told Entrepreneur magazine in a 2008 interview. And he was right.
Those instincts proved visionary again in 1957, when Lazarus began opening toy superstores, stocked with aisles and aisles of playthings, just as television was taking off, and fueling demand for toys like Barbie dolls, Slinkys and Hula Hoops.
The company that Lazarus built raised generations of “Toys “R” Us kids” but it now finds itself in the middle of bankruptcy and liquidation sales.
Over 6 billion in debt caused by a leveraged buyout in 2005 set the company down a difficult financial path. That debt, along with increase competition from rivals like Walmart, Target and Amazon, and changing retail shopping habits proved insurmountable.
The company filed for Chapter 11 in September. Weak holiday sales caused them to abandon their reorganization plan and move to full liquidation. Going-out-of-business sales at stores across the country were set to begin this week.