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Retail legend dies at 94

The founder of Toys “R” Us, Charles Lazarus, has died.

The news come as the company Lazarus founded and grew into a global toy empire is preparing to liquidate operations. Toys “R” Us announced the passing of Lazarus, who no longer held a stake in the chain, in a heartfelt statement.

“There have been many sad moments for Toys "R" Us in recent weeks, and none more heartbreaking than today's news about the passing of our beloved founder, Charles Lazarus,” the company stated. “He visited us in New Jersey just last year and we will forever be grateful for his positive energy, passion for the customer and love for children everywhere. Our thoughts and prayers are with Charles' family and loved ones.”

Toys “R” Us’ roots go back to 1948, when Lazarus opened Children's Bargain Town in Washington, D.C. The store, which sold baby furniture, gradually expanded into selling toys.

Lazarus opened the first Toys “R” Us in 1957, modeling it on a supermarket. He took the company public in 1978, and grew it into a retailing powerhouse, with stores across the globe. Lazarus stepped down as chairman and CEO in 1994, but remained involved in the company as chairman emeritus.

“He was a pioneer in big box movement,” Gerald Storch, CEO of Toys “R” Us from 2006 to 2013, told the New York Times. “His business concept was as innovative as e-commerce is today.” (Storch recently stepped down as CEO of Hudson’s Bay Company.)

Toys “R” Us has struggled in recent years, burdened with a heavy debt that resulted from a 2006 leveraged buyout and increased competition from more nimble players online and off, including Amazon, Walmart and Target.
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