The new chief executive officer of Marx Toys & Entertainment Corp. plans to appraise the value of the company's toy molds to determine the firm's future.
Ross LaTerra took over as the Sebring, Ohio-based firm's CEO and director Nov. 16, replacing Robert Bambery, who had held the post since February. LaTerra owns Oncor Entertainment Inc., an Internet promotion firm based in Hazlet, N.J. Oncor began handling online sales for Marx in early 2004.
LaTerra had Marx's molds appraised in December. Potentially, the molds could be used to obtain financing to rebuild the company, which once ranked as one of America's largest toy makers. Marx was the original maker of the Big Wheel riding toy and of the Johnny West line of action figures.
``I'd like to bring Marx Toys back to what it once was, by bringing out new products and continuing our line of classic toys for collectors,'' LaTerra said in a recent telephone interview.
But LaTerra has his work cut out for him. Quaker Oats bought the firm from the family of founder Louis Marx in 1962, but since the mid-1970s, Marx has gone through a series of owners. Most recently, home entertainment equipment supplier Stereoscape.com bought the Marx assets in 2000, and changed its name to Marx Toys & Entertainment in early 2003.
Late last year two different Marx CEOs - Steven Wise and his successor, Robert LoMonaco - were charged with stock fraud for manipulating the firm's stock price in penny stock trading.
Currently, Marx has annual sales of less than $100,000, most of which comes from selling reproductions of its classic injection molded toys to collectors and independent toy and hobby stores. The firm's ongoing expenses - including accounting and financial reporting costs and rent on its Sebring warehouse - resulted in a loss of more than $4 million last year.
Earlier this year, a merger with consumer marketing company Blue Ribbon International Inc. fell through. But LaTerra said he is hopeful that a deal to license the Bugs Bunny and Donald Duck characters for use in Internet-activated plush toys can be revived.
The value and amount of Marx's mold inventory in Sebring has not been totaled for several years, said LaTerra, whose entertainment-world experience includes work as a talent agent, casting director and screenwriter on such projects as the Third Watch TV show and the Men in Black II film.
The last estimate Marx had on the value of its molds and inventory was around $20 million. Earlier information on its Web site indicated the firm owned molds from other defunct toy makers, such as Remco, Ideal, Aurora, Kenner and Mego, but LaTerra said the molds in Sebring are only for Marx products.
But, according to LaTerra, Marx no longer owns the injection molding equipment needed to use the molds. Instead, the company has been selling existing inventory. It last produced injection molded toys in 2000 in a toll deal with a Sebring-area injection molder.
For his part, LaTerra is remaining upbeat.
``We need to bring a positive image back to the company,'' he said. ``Establishing the value of the company's molds will help determine its financial worth.''