Toy CEO says it ‘sickens’ him that people profit from a shortage of supplies to fight coronavirus

As the coronavirus pandemic escalates, many companies have shifted their focus to help fight the virus — including toy-making giant MGA Entertainment, which is donating medical supplies like masks to front-line responders.

In an interview with Yahoo Finance’s “On the Move” on Monday, MGA Entertainment CEO Isaac Larian lamented the fact that anybody would be making money off of the shortage of medical supplies in the midst of a crisis.

Some cities are paying $4-$6 for essential masks that MGA Entertainment is buying for $1.65 and donating directly to hospitals, according to Larian. “There are a lot of profiteers in the middle here … Somebody in the middle is making a lot of money from this unfortunate event,” he said, “which frankly sickens me.”

A closeup of an N95 air filter mask. Image: Getty

MGA’s project to donate medical supplies, dubbed “Operation Pac Man,” utilizes the toy company’s distribution connections to buy medical supplies at cost and donate them directly to hospitals. To date, the operation has donated 250,000 masks, he said.

“You know, toy businesses, toy companies, have a lot of different sources of supply, and we have taken the lead to do that,” Larian told Yahoo Finance, noting that, at 66 years old, he’s working 20-hour days and devoting 80% of his time to the company’s coronavirus relief efforts.

“We are not making any money, a penny on this. We want to help,” he said.

In addition to donating supplies, MGA Entertainment is preparing its Little Tikes Factory in Hudson, Ohio, to be able to manufacture medical supplies in the United States, Larian says. His company joins others that have shifted gears to combat the coronavirus pandemic — including automakers like Ford and GM, as well as apparel companies like Ralph Lauren, breweries, and aircraft companies.

“I encourage everybody else in the toy business to please, please, please help,” he said. “Anything you can.”

Meanwhile, Larian said that MGA Entertainment’s toy sales have actually spiked since the coronavirus pandemic closed schools and forced many parents to work from home.

“The reason is parents are buying these toys, especially Little Tikes, to keep their kids occupied and busy in the backyard,” he said. “So we have seen a major increase in sales.”

McKenzie DeGroot is a producer at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @degrootmckenzie

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