Well, well, well.
Mattel (MAT) said in a regulatory filing that former Chief Executive Bryan Stockton had been fired, contradicting its January 26 press release in which the toymaker said the executive had resigned.
Stockton’s “employment was terminated,” Mattel said in its annual proxy filing Thursday, noting that the termination was without cause and that he got severance benefits and payments accordingly, under a scenario of “Involuntary Termination.”
Nearly three months ago, Mattel had said Stockton was stepping down after three years as CEO of the company, which has struggled to compete as its Barbie and Fisher-Price struggle with slowing sales in the very competitive toy aisle. The company gave no reason for his departure at the time. But that announcement coincided with a preliminary report from Mattel showing that worldwide sales slid 7% to $6.02 billion for 2014, with profit for the period stung by the sales weakness, lower gross margins, and costs associated with the company’s $460 million acquisition last year of MEGA Brands, a maker of plastic construction bricks and arts and crafts sets.
Analysts and toy insiders have said Mattel’s toys haven’t been good enough enough at a time when peers like Hasbro (HAS) and Lego continue to report higher sales. In fact, Lego surpassed Mattel in sales volume last year. Smaller upstart brands have also eaten into sales, industry insiders have said.
While it is hard to square why the company said Stockton was resigning when in fact he was fired, it is worth noting that Stockton was hired last month by Mattel as a consultant for $125,000 per month (more than his base salary as CEO) to “provide transition and advisory service to the company, drawing from his deep institutional knowledge of the company and experience.” Mattel did not return a request for comment on the language discrepancy.
Long time Mattel director Christopher Sinclair, a former chief executive of Pepsi-Cola Company, (PEP) was named CEO last week after serving as interim CEO following Stockton’s dismissal.