Analyst: Mattel’s incoming CEO a strong match

With Mattel CEO Margo Georgiadis announcing her resignation just 14 months into her role, industry analyst Chris Byrne gives Kidscreen his take on why former Disney exec Ynon Kreiz's (pictured) appointment will benefit the toymaker.
April 20, 2018

After just 14 months at the helm of Mattel, Margo Georgiadis has stepped down as CEO at the California-based toymaker. The former Google exec will be succeeded on April 26 by ex-Maker Studios chairman and CEO Ynon Kreiz, who had already been tapped to serve as Mattel’s board chairman (pursuant to the company’s stockholders meeting next month).

Georgiadis, who joined Mattel from her role as Google Americas president last February, announced her resignation from Mattel’s executive and board duties on April 19, though she will serve in an advisory role at the toymaker through May 10. It was also announced yesterday that Georgiadis has been tapped as CEO of family history and consumer genomics database Ancestry.

During her brief tenure at Mattel, Georgiadis expanded the company’s efforts surrounding digital content and internet-connected toys. In June, Mattel unveiled a five-pillar strategic plan to focus on building its Power Brands—including American Girl, Barbie, Thomas & Friends, Fisher-Price and Hot Wheels—into 360-degree connected systems of play and experience. A brand development framework was also created to extend those IPs into digital systems, while further growth was to be driven by consumer products, gaming, content and live experiences. In a company statement, Kreiz said he intends to build on Mattel’s existing strategy and implement its ongoing transformation plan tactics.

He will also be tasked with handling consistently slumping sales. Mattel reported double-digit sales declines in fiscal 2017, with yearly worldwide net sales falling by 11% to US$4.88 billion. Despite a 9% boost in Barbie sales during the holiday period, Mattel also saw Q4 2017 net sales decease by 12% to US$1.61 billion, and gross sales fall by 8% to US$1.92 billion.

According to Chris Byrne, toy industry analyst and TTPM content director, Kreiz’s entertainment and marketing experience is a strong match for the current climate in the toy industry. In fact, he believes the appointment of a former Disney/Maker Studios exec is well timed for Mattel, as consumer products-driven content continues to increase in significance.

“I think there may be some short-term disquiet. Whenever there’s a big change, it can be a little disconcerting,” Byrne says. “But moving forward, I think that Ynon is going to be a great asset to the company. He was with Maker Studios and he’s worked in entertainment, so I think that he’s going to be really great in terms of guiding the company into this whole new world of how kids are consuming toys and the entertainment around toys.”

With Toys “R” Us continuing to shutter its US and UK operations, Byrne is well aware that the overall toy industry is a huge state of flux. But he remains optimistic. “I think the appointment actually speaks well to Mattel in that they realized it was time to move in another direction,” he says. “Companies can make missteps, or find something that isn’t the perfect fit. I look at it as a relatively quick response to a rapidly changing market, and in a very positive way.”

The news of Georgiadis’ departure also follows closely after Mattel announced in March that Juliana Chugg would step away from her role as chief brand officer. At the time, it was reported that Chugg would transition into a new role and that Georgiadis, along with COO Richard Dickson, would assume greater control over Mattel’s power brands moving forward.

Hasbro reportedly approached Mattel with a potential takeover offer in November 2017, though no deal has since materialized. Potential roadblocks for the deal include regulatory and anti-trust issues. At the time of the reported offer, BMO Capital Markets Toys & Leisure analyst Gerrick Johnson estimated that an amalgamation between Hasbro and Mattel would control approximately 25% of the worldwide mass market for traditional toys, as well as significant portions of the US and domestic mass markets (30% and 40%, respectively).

As for Kriez, his children’s entertainment experience dates back to 1997, when he co-founded Fox Kids Europe. He later served as president and CEO at Maker Studios from 2013 to 2016, and was chairman/CEO at Endemol from 2008 to 2011.


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