Irwin Toy Ltd., the Canadian toy company that produces Dragon Ball Z toys for North America, filed for bankruptcy this week as it dismissed some 135 of its 308 employees. In March of 2001 a private holding company, Livgroup Investments Ltd. purchased Irwin Toy for $55 million, ending 75 years of control over the company by the Irwin family (see 'Irwin Toy Sold'). In spite of impressive sales of its extensive line of 5.5-inch DBZ figures, Irwin Toy failed to develop any successful, non-licensed toy lines -- and production delays this summer reportedly cost the company some $16 million in sales. Currently Irwin Toy owes its creditors some $72 million. For the fiscal year that ended last Feb. 7, Irwin Toy lost some $5.2 million on sales of $133.4 million. Court filings indicate that Irwin currently has a bloated inventory valued at $28.8 million and some $49.4 million in accounts receivable.
While the bankruptcy of Irwin is obviously a matter of grave import for those directly involved who have lost or could potentially lose their jobs, pop culture retailers also have a stake in the outcome of the Irwin bankruptcy, since DBZ toys are an important product line in many shops. ICv2 contacted Funimation, the DBZ license-holder, which recently created a joint venture with Irwin Toys, IF Labs, to create upscale collector figures for DBZ and other Funimation properties (see 'Funimation and Irwin Team Up For DBZ Toys'). Jeff Dronen of Funimation told ICv2 that he didn't see any major disruptions in supplies of DBZ toys to the marketplace. Both the IF Labs and Irwin DBZ figures have already been shipped to retail outlets for the holiday season, and supplies should be ample. As for the future, Dronen told ICv2, 'We hope that Irwin Toy will be able to get things straightened out, but we have already contacted four other companies about possibly taking over the DBZ license, and we have already received proposals from several companies. We are looking for a company that will take over the distribution of the IF Labs toys (which are designed at Funimation's facility in Texas) as well as the license for the 5.5' action figures that Irwin has. If Irwin can't continue, we are confident in finding another partner.'