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Mattel's chief executive to retire

Robert Eckert, who has led the El Segundo toy maker for 11 years, plans to step down in December but remain on the board of directors. He will be succeeded by Bryan Stockton, the company's chief operating officer.

November 22, 2011|By Shan Li, Los Angeles Times
  • Mattel CEO Robert Eckert said in a statement that his retirement was a personal decision (and not tied to the current or future company), company spokeswoman Lisa Marie Bongiovanni wrote in an email. Above, Eckert, left, prepares to testify before a Senate panel.
Mattel CEO Robert Eckert said in a statement that his retirement was a personal… (Chip Somodevilla, Getty…)

Toy giant Mattel Inc. said Monday that Robert Eckert, its chief executive, would retire at the end of the year and be succeeded by Chief Operating Officer Bryan Stockton.

Eckert, 57, has served as CEO of the El Segundo company for 11 years and will stay on as chairman of the board. His successor, Stockton, 58, will take over beginning Jan. 1.

"We're delighted to have an experienced and proven leader like Bryan assume the CEO position," said Christopher Sinclair, an independent director for Mattel, in a statement about Stockton. "He's been a key architect behind Mattel's rapid international growth and has also helped shape many of the company's recent growth initiatives."

Although neither Mattel nor Eckert gave a reason for the CEO's retirement, analysts said the move was expected after Stockton assumed the newly created role of chief operating officer in January.

"The position of COO was set up specifically for Stockton," said Eric Handler, a media and entertainment analyst at MKM Partners. "That suggested that Bob let the company know he was probably leaving the day-to-day operations sooner rather than later, and the company could prepare for it."

Eckert said in a statement that retiring was a difficult decision. His retirement was "a personal decision (and not tied to the current or future company)," company spokeswoman Lisa Marie Bongiovanni wrote in an email. The company declined a request to interview Eckert and Stockton.

"It just seems like time for Bob to take a break and try something different," said Edward Woo, a research analyst at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles. "My hunch is that in a year or two, he'll probably step down as chairman, and look for other opportunities after he recharges his batteries."

Stockton, who has worked closely with Eckert in the past, is expected to stick with the same strategy of aggressive international expansion, reinvigorating existing brands and making toys tied to popular kids' movies such as "Cars 2."

Eckert "handpicked Bryan, and they share similar managing styles and philosophies," Woo said. "It's obviously not good to have volatility at a company, but most people don't see this as a big deal."

For the last year, Stockton has been in charge of the daily operations of Mattel, including its various brands such as Fisher-Price and American Girl. He joined the company in 2000 as the executive vice president of business planning and development.

Before assuming the role of chairman and chief executive in 2000, Eckert was president and chief executive of packaged foods company Kraft Foods Inc.

Mattel, the largest U.S. toy company, reported last month that its third-quarter profit rose $283.3 million, or 77 cents a share, a 23% bump from $229.8 million, or 63 cents, a year earlier.

The company's shares dropped 63 cents, or 2.2%, to $27.76.

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