Charles Lazarus, the World War II veteran who founded Toys R Us, has died aged 94, a week after the iconic chain he started six decades ago announced it will shut down its stores across the US.
Toys R Us confirmed Mr Lazarus’ death in a statement on Friday (Thursday local time).
“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 statement read.
A 25-year-old Mr Lazarus first opened a baby furniture store, Children’s Bargain Town, in Washington DC in 1948 and opened the first Toys R Us store in 1957.
Mr Lazarus chose the iconic backwards “R” to mimic the handwriting of children.
He took the company public in 1978 before stepping away as chairman and CEO in 1994.
Mr Lazarus’ death comes as the toy empire he founded would sell or close all of its US toy stores in the coming months.
The closure is a blow to generations of consumers and hundreds of toy makers that sold their products at the chain’s 885 US locations, including Barbie maker Mattel, board game company Hasbro and other large vendors such as Lego.
Toys ‘R’ Us, which has roughly 33,000 full-and part-time US employees, was already in the process of closing one-fifth of its stores as part of efforts to emerge from one of the largest ever bankruptcies by a specialty retailer.
Efforts collapsed this month after lenders decided, absent of a clear reorganisation plan, that they could recover more in a liquidation, closing stores and raising money from merchandise sales.