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Toys 'R' Us goes private

After more than a quarter-century as a public company, Toys "R" Us Inc. is now a privately held corporation.
/ Source: The Associated Press

After more than a quarter-century as a public company, Toys "R" Us Inc. is now a privately held corporation.

The $6.6 billion acquisition of the nation's second-largest toy seller was completed Thursday by two private equity firms, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Bain Capital Inc., and a real estate developer, Vornado Realty Trust. All have equal stakes.

The deal, announced March 17, gave stockholders $26.75 a share, and had been expected to close at the end of July. The purchase includes all worldwide operations of Wayne-based Toys "R" Us., including the Babies "R" Us business.

"Our new owners share the management team's commitment to building on the many strengths of Toys "R" Us as the premier specialty retailer of toys, children's and babies' products in the world," said Richard Markee, interim CEO for Toys "R" Us and president of Babies "R" Us.

The company has about 1,300 toy stores and 220 Babies "R" Us stores.

The New York Stock Exchange had no immediate word on when trading would be halted or on the fate of the company's symbol, TOY. Shares of Toys "R" Us were listed at $26.74 in afternoon trading, up 2 cents, and equaling their high for the past 52 weeks.

Stockholders in June readily approved the buyout, with about 98 percent of the shares that were voted favoring the deal.

Toys "R" Us had become the nation's largest toy seller while it was a public company, only to lose market share in recent years to the big discount retailers and cede the top spot to Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The $26.75 per share price was far more than stockholders were getting in recent years. The amount is more than double the closing price of $12.02 on Jan. 7, 2004, the trading day before the company announced it was considering dividing the company. The price is 63 percent over the closing sale price of $16.42 on Aug. 10, 2004, the day before the company announced it was exploring a sale of the global toys business.

Toys "R" Us became a public company in 1978, emerging from the bankruptcy of Interstate Stores, whose ancestor was Children's Bargain Town, which opened in Washington in 1948.

The first Kids "R" Us store opened in 1983, and overseas stores began opening the next year. The first Babies "R" Us store opened in 1996.

Recent years saw contraction. It shuttered 182 Kids "R" Us and Imaginarium stores in early 2004, cutting about 3,800 U.S. jobs.