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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

14 mins ago - Sports

China wins 1st gold of Tokyo Olympics

Silver medalist Anastasiia Galashina of Russia, gold medalist Yang Qian of China and bronze medalist Nina Christen of Switzerland celebrate on the podium after the 10m air rifle women's final. Photo:

China's Yang Qian won the first gold of the Tokyo Olympics, narrowly beating Anastasiia Galashina of the Russian Olympic Committee in the women's 10-meter air rifle final.

Why it matters: The first medal ceremony of the Games took on extra meaning after a year-long delay and other hurdles brought on by the pandemic. Athletes are required to hang medals around their own necks in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Journalism's two Americas

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

There's a sharp divide in American journalism between haves and have-nots. While national journalists covering tech and politics on the coasts reap the benefits of booming businesses and book deals, local media organizations, primarily newspapers, continue to shrink.

Why it matters: The disparate fortunes skew what gets covered, elevating big national political stories at the expense of local, community-focused news.

Updated 10 hours ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

🚨: Japan's Naomi Osaka lights Olympic cauldron; Photos

👻: How the no-spectator Olympics could affect the athletes

🇺🇸: "What an honor it is to watch you soar," first lady tells U.S. Olympians

🌏: Meet the underdogs from Latin America

🥇: The six new sports at Tokyo 2020

💉 About 100 U.S. Olympic athletes are unvaccinated

✍️ Axios at the Olympics: What it's like inside the opening ceremony

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage