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A Conversation with Jill Barad ’73: Business Leader Extraordinaire and Former Chairman & CEO of Mattel, Inc.

 

Jill Barad, ’73, began her career in cosmetics sales, while still attending Queens College in New York. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Psychology, she became brand manager for the full line of Coty products. This was followed by a move to Los Angeles and the position of account executive for the Max Factor brand at Wells, Rich, Greene/West advertising agency. In 1981, she started at Mattel, Inc. as a product manager. In 1997 she was named Mattel’s Chief Executive Officer, and Chairman of the Board.

As Chairman and CEO, Ms. Barad was one of only four women to be at the helm of a Fortune 500 company, leading Mattel’s 30,000 employees in the design, manufacture and marketing of products in more than 150 countries throughout the world. Ms. Barad is credited with building Mattel’s global brand portfolio into the strongest in the industry. She was also responsible for directing the company into new categories, which helped transform Mattel from a toy company into a premier global family products company.

Ms. Barad took the reigns of the Barbie brand in 1981, when It was under $200 million in sales, and built it into the most recognized toy brand of all time with sales of $2 billion by the year 2000. The Fisher-Price brand saw revenue double under her stewardship. Mattel’s Wheels business, which included Hot Wheels and, through her acquisition of Tyco, the Matchbox and Powerwheels brands, saw sales triple.

She expanded her relationship with Disney and was first to introduce what became the highly successful Disney Princess brand. She acquired Pleasant Company with its American Girl brand, which today is the leading direct-selling doll line in the world, later opening the first American Girl retail destination store that changed the way retailing is viewed today.

As a passionate champion of children, Ms. Barad took Mattel’s philanthropic endeavors to new heights in November of 1998, when she announced a first-time ever $25 million gift to the UCLA Children’s Hospital. This state-of-the-art facility is now named the Mattel Children’s Hospital.

Ms. Barad resigned from Mattel in February of 2000. Most recently, she led the creation of a new transformative play experience. AVASTARS is a 3D personalized image capture technology company that allows children to become the fully playable doll or action figure of their dreams. Her company, Right Foot, LLC, now owns the exclusive patents that allow the creation of personalized 3D masks in the likeness of individuals, as well as 3D animated videos where consumers are able to star in their own stories as themselves or their favorite characters.

Ms. Barad has served on several corporate boards, including Microsoft, Bank of America and Pixar Animation Studios. In her community, she served as a member of the UCLA Executive Board for the Medical Sciences and the UC Health Services Advisory Committee. She was the Vice Chairman of Town Hall Los Angeles, and on the board of fellows of Claremont University Center and Graduate School, as well as trustee emeritus of the Queens College Foundation. She was also chairman of the executive advisory board of the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation, an organization she co-founded. She was a board member of Girls, Inc., helping to support young girls to live out their dreams.

Jill and her husband Tom are major supporters of the medical research that could positively affect over 70 million people who suffer from auto-immune disorders. They have also continued their philanthropy at UCLA, endowing what is now The Barad Family Children’s Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, at the Mattel Children’s Hospital.

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