Charles Lazarus, the founder and original CEO of Toys “R” Us, died Thursday at the age of 94 on the same day the company he helped build had planned to begin liquidation proceedings.
“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 company said in a statement on Twitter. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Charles’ family and loved ones.”
Lazarus opened a children’s furniture store in 1948 and founded the original incarnation of Toys “R” Us in 1957. He served as the chain’s CEO until 1994.
At its peak, Toys “R” Us was one of the largest retailers in the country, with billions of dollars in annual sales. The company’s business, however, has suffered in recent years amid the rise of competitors like Amazon and Walmart.
Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy last September, citing an increasingly competitive retail landscape and mounting debt. The chain announced earlier this month that it would soon begin an “orderly wind-down” of its U.S. operations after failing to find a corporate buyer, shuttering or selling all of its more than 700 stores.
The company expected to begin liquidation sales at U.S. stores on Thursday. But going-out-of-business sales were delayed until at least Friday for unspecified reasons.