Ernst and Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2007 Winners
Isaac Larian, president and chief executive officer of MGA Entertainment was today named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year(R) 2007 overall national winner. He was also named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year(R) 2007 national award winner in the Retail and Consumer Products Category.
Now in its 21st year, the awards recognize leaders and visionaries who demonstrate innovation, financial success and personal commitment as they create and build world-class businesses. Larian was recognized for transforming MGA Entertainment into the largest privately held toy company in the world. “Isaac Larian has lived the American dream. He came to this country with little, found work as a dishwasher, and through passion, focus and entrepreneurial spirit, created a thriving enterprise that has redefined the toy industry,” said James S. Turley, chairman and CEO, Ernst & Young LLP.
“For 21 years, we have honored the dedication and drive that defines entrepreneurs through the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year awards. We’re proud to add Isaac Larian’s name to this distinguished list of business leaders.” Larian was honored as both the Overall Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2007 national winner as well as the national winner in the Retail and Consumer Products Category at a gala in Palm Springs. Awards were given in nine additional categories. All Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year winners were selected by an independent panel of judges from approximately 400 regional award recipients.
Negotiation Skills Learned Early
Larian worked for his father’s small textile business in Iran as a teenager. It was there he learned the art of negotiation. Those skills came in handy years later when he launched Micro Games of America, acting as a licensee of other company’s products, including Nintendo, Power Rangers and Hello Kitty. Larian soon learned that being a licensor of products provided greater growth opportunities and he began building his company’s own brands, licensing them to others.
In 1998, Larian changed his company’s name to MGA Entertainment, transforming the business into a full consumer entertainment products company. It currently manufactures and produces more than 20 product lines of toys and games, dolls, consumer electronics, home decor, stationary and sporting goods. MGA’s products include household names such as Bratz, Yummi-Land, Storytime Collection, Rescue Pets, Miuchiz, West Coast Choppers, Market Racers and Marvel toys. Battle of the Dolls With trends in toys changing as quickly as fashion, it’s notable that Larian’s biggest splash in the market has come from fashion conscious dolls.
Since their introduction, the Bratz dolls have grown into a billion dollar franchise and become the number one fashion doll brand in the world. That came after unseating Barbie, whose reign as the top doll had lasted for more than 40 years. The Bratz won Family Fun magazine’s Toy of the Year Award four years in a row and the dolls have spawned a feature film, fashion magazines, apparel collections, a website, online promotions and a host of related products. MGA currently has more than 400 licensees worldwide, creating a range of new Bratz themed products-from Bratz Stylin’ Cosmetix to Bratz Sporty Flair Bedding.
In 2006, Larian began expanding his product lines for children under six, purchasing Little Tikes, the maker of durable plastic toys and playsets for toddlers and young children. His eye toward growth continued in May 2007, as MGA acquired Smoby-rescuing France’s largest toy company, and Europe’s second largest, from bankruptcy.
Open Door Brings in Good Ideas Despite the Company’s Growth
Larian continues to run MGA Entertainment with the same entrepreneurial focus. Brainstorming is a big part of the company’s culture and Larian maintains an open-door policy. He credits MGA’s 500 employees and product designers as the source of many of the company’s bestselling ideas. In 2002 an intern suggested an idea for an accessory-a spa for the Bratz dolls. That became the first Bratz playset and won the Toy Industry Association People’s Choice Toy of the Year award. With all his success in the toy business, no one is having more fun than Larian himself.
Other National Finalists in the Retail and Consumer Products Category
The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year national finalists in the Retail and Consumer Products Category were Michael J. Hagan, chairman and CEO of NutriSystem, Inc., a leading provider of weight management and fitness products and services based in Pennsylvania; Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, Inc. an online shoe and handbag retailer headquartered in Henderson, Nevada; and Tom Campion, founder and chairman of Zumiez, based in Everett, Washington, a mall-based specialty retailer of action sports related apparel, footwear, equipment and accessories.
Additional Entrepreneur Of The Year Category Award Winners:
– Marc Benioff of San Francisco based Salesforce.com, Inc. was named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2007 national winner in the Technology Category.
– William Gay of W. W. Gay Mechanical Contractor, Inc. in Jacksonville, Florida was named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2007 national winner in the Real Estate, Hospitality & Construction Category.
– Harold Hamm of Continental Resources, Inc. in Enid, Oklahoma was named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2007 national winner in the Energy, Chemicals & Mining Category.
– Ronald J. Kruszewski of Stifel Financial Corp. in St. Louis, Missouri was named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2007 national winner in the Financial Services Category.
– Harold “Max” Messmer, Jr. of Robert Half International Inc. in Menlo Park, California was named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2007 national winner in the Services Category.
– Pamela B. Morris of CareSource Management Group in Dayton, Ohio was named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2007 national winner in the Health Sciences Category.
– Michael V. Roberts and Steven C. Roberts of the Roberts Hotels Group in St. Louis, Missouri, were named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2007 national winners in the Emerging Category.
– Manu Shah of M S International, Inc. of Orange, California was named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2007 national winner in the Distribution, Manufacturing & Security Category.
– Michael Walrath of New York’s Right Media was named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2007 national winner in the Media, Entertainment & Communications Category.
About the Ernst & Young LLP, the Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards Program
Sponsors Founded and produced by Ernst & Young LLP, the Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards are pleased to have Bank of America as the national presenting sponsor, as well as SAP America and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation as national sponsors. About The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year(R) Program The Entrepreneur Of The Year awards program was created and is produced by professional services firm Ernst & Young LLP. As the first award of its kind, the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award recognizes outstanding entrepreneurs who are building and leading dynamic and growing businesses. The program, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2006, honors entrepreneurs through regional, national and global award programs in over 125 cities and 40 countries.