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Toy billionaire swoops in to save Toys ‘R’ Us

NEW YORK—Billionaire toy marketer Isaac Larian offered to save Toys “R” Us from liquidation with an almost $ 900-million (U.S.) bid for its stores in the U.S. and Canada that relies in part on crowdfunding.

Larian is offering $ 675 million for the U.S. stores and $ 215 million for the outlets in Canada, he said Friday in a statement. The funds will come from Larian himself, other investors and bank financing. A representative for Toys “R” Us didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The would-be rescuer is the chief executive officer of MGA Entertainment Inc., which sells toys including Little Tikes, Bratz and L.O.L. Surprise! Larian previously started a GoFundMe campaign to help keep Toys “R” Us open, with the page showing pledges of about $ 200 million.

Larian joins a list of bidders taking last-minute looks at parts of Toys “R” Us. The company drew multiple offers of over $ 1 billion for its Asian business, a lawyer for Toys “R” Us said Wednesday in bankruptcy court. Those come amid efforts to wind down U.S. operations, after attempts to restructure the Wayne, N.J.-based business and keep it operating collapsed.

The company filed for bankruptcy in September, hoping to shed debt and turn around the business, but after dismal sales during the holiday season, it opted to liquidate instead.

“The liquidation of Toys ‘R’ Us is going to have a long-term effect on the toy business,” said Larian, whose privately held company is based in Van Nuys, Calif. “The industry will truly suffer.”

TORONTO STAR