The founder of Toys-R-Us, Charles Lazarus, has died at the age of 94 one week after the company announced that it would shut down its stores.
The toy chain's CEO confirmed in a statement today that Lazarus died today at the age of 94. The founder formed the company more than seven decades ago.
"He was the father of the toy business," said Michael Goldstein, who succeeded him as CEO. "He knew the toys and loved the toys and loved the kids who would shop in the stores. His face lit up when he watched kids playing with toys."
The nonagenarian no longer held any stake in the chain that he started in 1948 when he was only 25-years-old.
"There have been many sad moments for Toys "R" Us in recent weeks, and none more heartbreaking than today's news about the passing of our beloved founder," Toys "R" Us said in a statement. "He visited us in New Jersey just last year, and we will forever be grateful for his positive energy, passion for the customer and love for children everywhere. Our thoughts and prayers are with Charles' family and loved ones."
Lazarus began by selling baby furniture in a store called Children's Bargain Town in Washington D.C., and quickly expanded to selling toys. He opened his first store stocked only with toys in 1957, naming it "Toys "R" Us" with a backwards "R" that was meant to look like it had been drawn by a child.
The toy chain thrived through the years until stiff competition from stores like WalMart and Target cut into its profits. The company's debt was downgraded to junk bond status in 2005 and was sold for $6.6 billion to a group of private equity firms in 2006. The deal left the company weighed down by debt that it was never able to recover from.
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