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Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Toys "R" Us formally launched its liquidation process shortly after midnight, via a bankruptcy court filing. This came hours after more than 33,000 U.S. employees were told their jobs are likely to disappear.

Bottom line: There is plenty of blame to go around, including for the private equity firms that bought Toys "R" Us in 2005, the senior lenders who control it now and an increased focus on toys by generalist retailers like Amazon and Wal-Mart.

Nothing is finalized yet. There is still some hope that around 200 strong-performing U.S. stores could be merged with the much-healthier Canadian operation.

A key number is $81 million, which was EBITDA for U.S. stores in Q4 2017 (i.e., holiday season). That's well below $374 million in Q4 15 and $347 million in Q4 16, not to mention below lender projections of around $330 million.

Finger pointing
  • Private equity firms Bain Capital and KKR paid too much, larded on too much debt, paid themselves handsomely and didn't adequately foresee the changing face of American retail.
  • The senior lenders seem to have decided that it would be more lucrative to burn the whole thing down, rather than salvage hundreds of viable stores and thousands of jobs.
  • Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target threaten most specialty retailers, but took particular aim at the toy market. Toys "R" Us simply couldn't compete, and wasn't helped by an early 2000's belief that it would be better to partner with Amazon than fight against it.

Toys "R" Us CEO Dave Brandon told me two years ago that a key to specialty retail success would be exclusive product. Either Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us didn't have enough of it, or he was wrong. But Brandon got well compensated either way.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

Experts predict major boom for North American sports stadiums

Rendering of the $375 million Moody Center on the UT-Austin campus. Photo courtesy of Moody Center

Stadium and arena construction in North America will total a relatively tame $5.8 billion this year, a 12% decrease from 2021.

The big picture: What the industry lacks in construction it expects to make up for in design, with experts predicting a sports venue boom over the next half-decade, SBJ reports.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

The latest: “I can’t comment on specific pieces of intelligence. But we’ve been warning about just this kind of tactic for weeks and we’ve spoken to that publicly," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Student debt getting in the way of millennial homeownership

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Millennial homeownership is on the rise — but student loan debt is still keeping millions of members of America's largest generation from owning a home.

Why it matters: Buying a house remains the No. 1 way to build wealth in the U.S.