When news came down that Toys 'R' Us was liquidating, there was an outpouring of emotion and nostalgia that I haven't often seen.
It's sad when any entrepreneurial adventure comes to an end, but this seemed like something different. It's a brand with true connections for many Millennials, from Geoffrey the giraffe, to the ubiquitous jingle, to childhood memories of scouring the aisles and coming away with a much-wanted toy.
In fact, given the nostalgia, I've wondered if the brand is really destined to disappear.
The logo, the name, Geoffrey the giraffe? Those things all have value, and I could easily imagine an entrepreneur raising money to try and acquire them.
I just never imagined it would happen like this.
The company's path to liquidation is a twisted one, but the short version is that it wound up in bankruptcy last year, tried to find a buyer, and then had to tell the court that it's time to throw in the towel. (Sadly, the 94-year-old founder of Toys 'R' Us, Charles Lazarus, passed away today, too.)
Now, a billionaire entrepreneur has started a crowdfunding campaign seeking to raise $800 million to fund a partial acquisition offer.
"It's personal for me and I think it feels personal to millions of people across the U.S. and around the world to save this institution that has delighted children for generations," the billionaire, Isaac Larian, CEO of MGA Entertainment, which makes Bratz dolls, told me in an email.
Larian said he and other investors are putting up another $200 million.
I'm going to be upfront: I get that some people really want this brand to survive, but the idea of ordinary people funding the acquisition of a for-profit company, and getting nothing for it but a bumper sticker in some cases, makes me really uncomfortable.
But then, I'm assuming we're all adults--even if we don't want to grow up.
If people care enough to put their own money toward someone else's acquisition of the brand, then I guess that's their business.
And if I'm amazed that a billionaire would have the audacity to ask people to do this--well, maybe that's why he's a billionaire and I'm not.
Apparently, Larian has the phrase, "Fortune favors the bold" displayed all over his offices.
"This isn't just about toys though, this is about preserving the joy and excitement of play for future generations, and while we don't have specifics to share, if 400 U.S. Toys 'R' Us stores are salvaged, we could save one-third of the 130,000 jobs," Larian said.