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Wednesday, Feb 21, 2024

Verdict Won’t Halt MGA Plans

MGA Entertainment continues with its plans to move from its Van Nuys headquarters to the old Los Angeles Times printing plant site in Chatsworth. MGA has given no indication that courtroom dramatics with rival toymaker Mattel Inc. over its popular Bratz line of dolls has derailed their intention for the 26-acre property it purchased in 2006. “We have not heard anything different and we look forward to working with them,” said Mitch Englander, the chief of staff for Los Angeles City Councilman Greig Smith. The company refused to comment on the matter, a spokesman said. That the property remained in the hands of a manufacturer was of particular importance to Smith who has placed a priority on maintaining manufacturing-zoned land in his district rather than see it used for housing. The company’s intention was always to move the Van Nuys operations in phases. Some plans may involve variances or conditional use permits granted by the city, Englander said. Smith’s district office assembled a team to work with MGA to assist in breaking any red tape it may encounter as it moves through the city agencies. “We are working them to make sure that when they are ready to file their application that they can streamline their process,” Englander said. “We’ll make sure to get them to the right people so they don’t hit a lot of obstacles.” MGA was one of five bidders on the property after it went on the market in 2006, paying a reported $28 million. As a printing plant the Times greatly underutilized the space there, Englander said. “Another reason we looked at this as a great opportunity is because you can bring in a sizeable company with a good workforce,” Englander said. MGA employed about 400 workers in 2007. The company manufactures overseas, but virtually all the other functions, from design and development to accounting and licensing, are handled from its U.S. headquarters, which currently provide just 160,000 square feet of space, about 56 percent less than the building that now sits on the Times site. MGA founder Isaac Larian hit the jackpot in 2001 by introducing Bratz, a line of dolls that mimic the urban hip-hop fashions of today. In a few short years, Bratz bumped the 50-year-old Barbie franchise from Mattel to second place, and the dolls have pushed the company into the entertainment arena with videos and other licensed products. Mattel filed a lawsuit against MGA and Bratz creator Carter Bryant alleging copyright infringement. Bryant settled with Mattel prior to trial and in July a federal jury found that MGA and Larian took Mattel property for their own use, and aided and abetted Bryant in breaching his loyalty and fiduciary duties to Mattel. MGA, in turn, has filed for a mistrial claiming that one of the jurors showed a bias against Iranians Larian’s nationality during deliberations and failed to disclose that bias during jury selection. The motion for a mistrial remains pending.

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