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Mattel CEO to retire right after holiday season

Barbie dolls are displayed inside a showroom at a Mattel office in Hong Kong January 12, 2010.

BOBBY YIP/REUTERS

Toy maker Mattel Inc. said Monday that its CEO, Robert Eckert, will retire at the end of the year.

Mr. Eckert, 57, who has led Mattel for 11 years, will be replaced Jan. 1 by Chief Operating Officer Bryan G. Stockton, 58.

Mr. Eckert will remain chairman. Before he came to Mattel in 2000, he was president and CEO at Kraft Foods Inc.

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Mr. Stockton has "been a key architect behind Mattel's rapid international growth and has also helped to shape many of the company's recent growth initiatives," said Christopher Sinclair, an independent director and leader of Mattel's board.

Mattel, the largest U.S. toy company, reported in October that its third-quarter net income rose 6 per cent, thanks partly to strong sales of its Barbie line and Cars 2-related toys. Its profit matched Wall Street estimates, but its gross margin — the share of revenue that a company keeps as profit and to cover expenses beyond the cost of the goods it sells — was pressured by higher costs and the strengthening U.S. dollar.

The announcement comes just as the crucial holiday shopping season kicks off.

Several Mattel products have made "hot toy lists" for this holiday season. They include Barbie Designable Hair, a $35 Barbie that comes with customizable hair extensions; Figit Friends, $49.99 robotic dolls that respond to touch and voice; and Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Apptivity Case, a $15 plastic case for iPhones that protect them from toddlers.

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