With Mattel, Montreal’s Mega Brands builds stronger battle against Lego
by Armina Ligaya
Touch-screen gadgets have become so sophisticated, yet so intuitive that even a toddler immediately knows how to use an iPad. These shiny, interactive screens also offer kids limitless opportunities to build virtual worlds in an instant, making for devices with an addictive hold over children that some parents liken to crack cocaine.
Does the humble interlocking brick, little changed for decades, really stand a chance? Actually, to quote the ubiquitous song from The Lego Movie, Everything Is AWESOME!!!
Construction sets, such as Lego and Mega Bloks made by Montreal’s Mega Brands, was the fourth-fastest growing toy category last year. And judging by The Lego Movie’s massive box office take (No. 1 for three weekends and counting), snap-together plastic bricks are even experiencing a cultural renaissance.
When playing with these kinds of toys, children are captured by being able to create whatever they can conjure up in their imagination, with their hands, all while building skills from math to physics and even teamwork on joint projects, said Nina Howe, professor of early childhood and elementary education at Montreal’s Concordia University.
“Young kids very much like the sensory-motor aspect, being able to feel and touch and to construct and build,” she said. “You can’t do the same thing on a screen. There is something about the three-dimensional aspect and being hands on that’s really important for young kids.”
It’s what prompted Mattel Inc. to agree to pay US$460-million for Mega Brands Inc., the second-largest player in the building blocks segment where the toy giant doesn’t already have any offerings. After the announcement of the friendly-deal on Friday, Mattel chairman and chief executive Bryan Stockton said its purchase of Mega Brands would “immediately position us to be a meaningful player in the construction category.” Buying Mega Brands was easier than launching a construction line of its own.
Young kids very much like the sensory-motor aspect, being able to feel and touch and to construct and build
“If you think about how construction works, it’s not just a boy’s toy anymore and it really crosses gender and ages and things,” Mr. Stockton said during a conference call with analysts. “So we think it’s a great opportunity to expand our brands like Barbie and Hot Wheels into this important category.”
Mattel’s agreement with Mega Brands offers the Montreal company $17.75 per share, a 36% premium over Thursday’s closing price. The deal, which has been unanimously approved by the board of directors, is a fantastic exit for chief executive Marc Bertrand and his founding family, as well Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., who together hold approximately 39% of the outstanding shares. It comes after a tumultuous journey for Mega Brands, which was near collapse in 2010.
In 2006, Mega Brands had to recall its lines of magnetic toys after a child was killed and dozens more were injured. The children had swallowed tiny magnets that had popped out of the toys. The grisly PR crisis weighed on sales in the coming years. By 2010, the Bertrand family and Fairfax had to save Mega Brands from bankruptcy with a recapitalization plan and debt restructuring.
Over the last few years, thanks to key licensing agreements to make toys based on Microsoft’s popular video game Halo and Marvel’s Captain America and Thor characters, Mega Brands came back from near death. The company signed a licensing deal with Mattel in 2012, to make Mega Bloks lines featuring the Barbie and Hot Wheels brands, and the resulting deal evolved from that, said Mr. Bertrand.
“We had our challenges, but we have great products, great brands, great people here… We’re very excited with what’s happening with Mattel right now, because we think that’s going to open up many new opportunities for our brand, for our people,” Mr. Bertrand said on the conference ca
It also helps that the construction toy category continues to rise to new heights. While overall U.S. toy sales are stalling, dropping to US$21.76-billion last year from US$21.98-billion in 2012, the construction set category grew from US$1.99 billion in 2012 to US$2.04-billion last year, says Lutz Muller, a consultant at Klosters Trading Corp. in Williston Hills, Vt., citing NPD figures.
Sales are partially driven by well-meaning parents. They feel good about buying toys they believe stimulate their child’s development, said Lisa Serbin, a professor of psychology at Concordia.
“Parents tell me that Legos are part of their investment portfolios… It’s a joke, cause they’ve spent so much money on the darn things, but it also means, yes, they’re investing in their children’s future when they buy them,” she said.
Lego is by far the dominant leader in this category, with more than 75% market share worldwide, but Mega Bloks is a strong number two with about 11% in the U.S. and a nascent presence overseas, said Mr. Muller. Mega Brands has never had the resources or relations to really break into the international market. With Mattel behind it, Mega can take on the Danish construction set goliath in a way it could never have done on its own, Mr. Muller said. Though, with Lego’s clear savvy in racking up licensing agreements and movie deals, Mega Brands and Mattel will have their work cut out for them, he said.
“Mattel is not only the number one [toy maker] in the States, Mattel is number one in the world. So, Mattel has a lot of resources to put Mega on the Map against Lego, worldwide… It’s going to be fun and games to watch what’s going to happen,” Mr. Muller said.
Back in Montreal, where the 1,700-employee company was founded and is based, there is no written agreement to keep the headquarters and manufacturing there, said Mr. Bertrand. Mr. Bertrand will stay on as an advisor during the transition, but it is unclear what his role will be beyond that.
However, Mr. Stockton said Friday Mattel plans to maintain Mega Brands’ headquarters, which has proven expertise in marketing, design, development and engineering.
“The Montreal manufacturing facility is also an integral part of the business that provides expertise in the construction category,” he said on the analysts call. “We plan to continue to invest in this facility and have no plans to shut it down.”

Never Give Up Your Dream


14 people who failed before becoming super successful starsBeatles
by Business Insider
The names Oprah Winfrey, Walt Disney, and Steven Spielberg aren’t usually associated with failure.

But before these super successful stars made it big in Hollywood, they first failed, were fired, or heard the word “no” countless times.

But they never gave up.

See what 14 game changers had to overcome before becoming famous.
Beyoncé lost on “Star Search” in 1993.
Before people bowed down to Queen Bey, Beyoncé and her Houston, Texas-based hip hop group Girl’s Tyme weren’t considered winners on popular talent show “Star Search.”
The group, who would later become known as Destiny’s Child, appeared on a 1993 episode of “Star Search” — but lost to the Skeleton Crew.
Now 20 years later and one half of the most powerful couple in the music industry, Beyoncé included the “Star Search” footage in her new “Flawless” music video off her record-breaking visual album.
Walt Disney was told a mouse would never work
Before Walt Disney built the empire he has today, he was fired by a newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
In 1921, Disney formed his first animation company in Kansas City, where he made a deal with a distribution company in New York, in which he would ship them his cartoons and get paid six months down the road. He was forced to dissolve his company and at one point could not pay his rent. He reportedly survived by eating dog food.
Also, When Walt first tried to get MGM studios to distribute Mickey Mouse in 1927, he was told that the idea would never work because a giant mouse on the screen would terrify women.
Entrepreneur Walt had a whole slew of bad ideas before coming up with good ones, read about them here.
J.K. Rowling was on welfare.
Before J.K. Rowling had any “Harry Potter” success, the writer was a divorced singled mother on welfare struggling to get by while also attending school and writing a novel.

Luckily, that novel turned into the “Harry Potter” franchise, which has since made Rowling a billionaire as of April 2012.
Oprah Winfrey was told she was “unfit for TV.”
AP Images
At age of 22, the now-TV mogul was fired from her job as a television reporter because she was “unfit for TV.”
Winfrey was terminated from her post as co-anchor of the 6 o’clock weekday news on Baltimore’s WJZ-TV after the show received low ratings. Winfrey has called it the “first and worst failure of her TV career.”
Winfrey was then demoted to morning TV, where she found her voice and met fellow newbie Gayle King, who would one day become her producer and editor of O, The Oprah Magazine.
Seven years after her first “failure,” Winfrey moved to Chicago, where her self-titled talk show went on to dominate daytime TV for 25 years. Winfrey now heads her own channel, OWN.
Jerry Seinfeld was booed off-stage.
As the story goes, the first time the young comedian walked on stage at a comedy club, he looked out at the audience, froze, and was eventually booed off of the stage.
But a determined Seinfeld went back the next night and performed a successful set.
The comedian would go on to create one of the most successful TV sitcoms of all time.
Stephen King received 30 rejections for “Carrie.”
In 1973, Stephen King was working as an English teacher in Maine and selling short stories on the side to make ends meet. That same year, he accepted a $2,500 advance for his first novel “Carrie” to Doubleday but after 30 rejections, King decided to give up on the book.
At the urging of his wife, King later resubmitted the manuscript and now, after having hundreds of books published, King is one of the best-selling authors of all time and “Carrie” is on its second movie re-make.
As of 2011, total sales for King’s books were estimated to be between 300 and 350 million copies.

Before landing “I Love Lucy,” Lucille Ball was widely regarded as a failed B-movie actress and was even dubbed “Queen of the Bs” in the 1940s.
But by 1962, Ball was the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu, which produced many successful and popular television series.
Throughout her career, Ball won four Emmys and earned the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors
Director Oliver Stone dropped out of Yale.
Three-time Oscar-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone dropped out of Yale to write his first novel, which was later rejected by publishers. When it was finally published in 1998, the novel was not well-received and Stone moved to Vietnam to teach English.
As a result, Stone enlisted in the army and fought a battle that earned him two Purple Hearts and helped him find the inspiration for his later work that often centers around war — such as “Platoon,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” and “Natural Born Killers.”
Oscar-winning actor Sidney Poitier was told to become a dishwasher
After his first audition, Poitier, who grew up poor in the Bahamas, was told by the casting director, “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?”
Poitier went on to win an Oscar for “Lilies of the Field” in 1964 and 1967’s super successful “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.”
Steven Spielberg got rejected from film school … three times.
Wikimedia Commons
Steven Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television three times.
He eventually attended another school, only to drop out and become a director before finishing.
Thirty-five years after starting his degree, Spielberg returned to school in 2002 to finally complete his work and earn his BA.
“I wanted to accomplish this for many years as a thank-you to my parents for giving me the opportunity for an education and a career,” Spielberg said in a statement. “And as a personal note for my own family — and young people everywhere — about the importance of achieving their college education goals.”
The Beatles were dropped by their record label.
When The Beatles were just starting out, a recording company told them no.
Decca Recording studios, who had recorded 15 songs with the group, said “we don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out. They have no future in show business.”
Hugh Jackman was fired from 7-Eleven.
Before he was Wolverine on “X-Men” or a Broadway star, actor Hugh Jackman got fired from his cashier job at 7-Eleven.
“I got fired after six weeks because the (boss) said I talked too much to the customers,” Jackman explained to Us Weekly.

Fred Astaire was told he “can’t act.”
In his first screen test, the testing director of MGM noted that Astaire, “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.”
Astaire later insisted that the report had actually read: “Can’t act. Slightly bald. Also dances.” David O. Selznick, who signed Astaire to RKO and commissioned the test, stated in a memo, “I am uncertain about the man, but I feel, in spite of his enormous ears and bad chin line, that his charm is so tremendous that it comes through even on this wretched test.”
Astaire, who went on to become an Oscar-nominated actor, singer and dancer, reportedly kept the negative note in his Beverly Hills home to remind him of where he came from.
Elvis Presley got fired after his first performance.
Wikimedia Commons
In 1954, Elvis was still a no-name performer, and Jimmy Denny — manager of the Grand Ole Opry — fired Elvis Presley after just one performance telling him, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”


Elvis went on to become the second best-selling artists of all time.



ryan and me

To the fans of money and everything else that comes with it. The Chargers are on a roll now and that’s great but it will end soon. Hopefully for the fans in San Diego, it will end in a Super Bowl title. “It could happen” , maybe. Stranger things have happened. So, now to my point. This City needs a boost. Non-Football fans love to say stuff like, “it’s not our job to pay for the chargers” or “let the Chargers pay for their own stadium”. To those folks I can only say “PETCO”. It’s not just the stadium that helps a city. It’s status, it’s companies coming here just to come here. We have Sea World, the best Zoo and Wild Animal Park in the world and the Beach. What more could you ask for. The money that is brought in because of the Chargers is not just at the park itself. It’s the bars and clubs, the shirts and the people who design and sell them and the people who produce them. Not to mention the players who live here and buy homes and everything that goes with all that. On the same note, everyone who is associated with the team, spends money here in San Diego. OMG, can we please think beyond the cost of something and focus on the outcome. Even the cost has it’s benefits. All those who design and work on the building of a new stadium will be spending money here in San Diego. There’s an old saying, “you have to spend money to make money”.
I am a family man first. As a family man, I want to make it clear that I don’t spend beyond my means. But, if I knew that spending money would make me more money, well, you get the picture. We need to realize that as a city and a county, we need to grow ore risk stagnation. Right now, the Mission Valley place will work and so will the Downtown area. The issue is not where but when. If the Chargers move it will be a loss to more than just the City. Don’t get me wrong, if they move we will survive, but like our basketball team we will lose a chance to make real money for the city and those who support them. I’m not sure where to leave this but i’ll try. We don’t need a football team, we should want one. We don’t need a basketball or hockey or even a baseball team. We should want one if we want our City to grow to its potential. Example, Chicago, Boston, New York, Phoenix, Huston, Dallas, need I go on. Well, let me know what you think… JG

“The things that matter most in this life can never be held in our hands.”


Perhaps you, too, felt an uneasiness over photos in the news these past few days, images contrasting the simplicity of what matters most with our craving for what matters least.

There will be some who’ll say, “Chill out, you’re taking this much too seriously.”


But when we see those perennial pictures of civic titans such as Tom Menino, and now Marty Walsh, serving sumptuous meals to guests who are homeless, hungry and destitute, it draws our attention to the fact that so many have so little, reminding us we’re called to be our brother’s keeper.

That’s more than a Biblical mandate; indeed, it’s been an American concept through all of the generations that preceded ours.

Thanksgiving, even by its name, was a reminder, reaffirming a great Gaither lyric: “The things that matter most in this life can never be held in our hands.”

We always knew that what mattered most wasn’t gadgets or flashy items; the older we got the more we understood that the things that mattered most weren’t things at all. The really good stuff had no price tag.

But corporate America doesn’t want to hear such sloppy sentimentality, especially when there’s a buck to be made.

So, thumbing its nose at the fabric of our culture, it appropriated Thanksgiving as a launching pad for frenzied, obsessive consumption, as if anything we purchased could be worth more than what we pushed aside.

A day of rest, a time for reflection, an occasion for reunions, that’s what Thanksgiving was, making it America’s quintessential family day.

Those folks lining up for a free meal came from families, too, and who knows what their stories are. It really makes no difference, but without saying a word, they remind us to be grateful for blessings easily taken for granted.

When the NFL decided to offer its tantalizing product on Thanksgiving, there were some howls, but at least the sports junkies remained under the same roof as everyone else in the family.

Now, with corporate mercenaries champing to get into our pockets, we’ve become whipped by this Black Friday aberration, which frequently begins as the sun sets Thursday afternoon, languishing for hours and being jostled by the hordes, all to save a few shekels on a printer or a TV set.

The savings may be good but, make no mistake, the cost is awfully high.

More and more, it seems, we know the price of everything and the value of nothing.That’s what’s happened to Thanksgiving in America, and if you lament it, too, be assured you’re not alone.

Kristen Bell warms up to ‘Frozen’


Kristen Bell

“Frozen,” Disney’s first animated Thanksgiving entry since 2010’s “Tangled,” reveals Kristen Bell’s “best kept secret” — her singing voice.

“Although to me it doesn’t feel like one,” the 33-year-old actress and new mom said last week from her Los Angeles home. “I trained operatically when I was a little girl and I’ve always gravitated toward anything and everything that made music.”

Bell left New York University years ago to make her Broadway debut in a Tom Sawyer musical but considers “Frozen,” a very free adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” as “really the first time I bring singing to a role.”

She’s Anna, the upbeat younger sister to tormented Elsa (Broadway’s “Wicked” star Idina Menzel), the newly crowned queen of their tiny kingdom.

“Elsa has something that makes her different from everybody else, which is this power she can freeze things and she can’t always control it,” Bell said.

“It’s what makes her unique and she’s been told her whole life, ‘Don’t let people see it.’ It’s a metaphor for enjoying what makes us all unique.”

Anna, she pointed out, “accepts and loves her sister above everything else. The message is believing in someone even when they don’t believe in themselves — and fighting for them.”

Anna also finds some unexpected truths about life.

“She’s an unbridled optimist. That’s what makes her so charming — she’s always happy.

“What’s so funny,” she continued, “this story for Disney is the most untraditional story they’ve ever done. It’s so not about a damsel in distress, it’s not about a tomboy, it’s not about romantic love. It’s a sharp right turn, story-wise.”

Bell, mother of 6-month-old daughter Lincoln with husband Dax Shepard, just finished the Veronica Mars movie and is wrapping the third season of her Showtime series “House of Lies.”

How does she manage marriage, motherhood, a movie and a series? “Carefully,” she said.

“I have a very good support system. Dax and I try to always have at least someone not working. Our sister watches the baby while we’re at work.

“Really every minute I’m not working, I’m with her. We’re eating lunch together right now: I’m eating toast and she’s eating cauliflower. It’s a delicate balance.”