Five months after filing for bankruptcy, Bleacher Creatures, the Plymouth Meeting maker of stuffed likenesses of pro sports and entertainment personalities, has a new lease on life: new ownership, a pared product line, and a humble appreciation for the consequences and costs of trying to be too much too soon.
New York-based Pangea Brands LLC, which specializes in pop-culture toys, collectibles, and appliances — including a "Star Wars" toaster and a "Transformers" waffle-maker — announced its purchase of Bleacher Creatures on Oct. 1 to coincide with two relevant events: the Fall Toy Preview in Dallas, and New York Comic Con.
Though the deal will bring many changes, Bleacher Creatures founder Matthew Hoffman, 46, of Plymouth Meeting, will remain. He will be president of the new combined company, to be known as Uncanny Brands effective Jan. 1. In a recent interview, the new company's leaders talked about the future.
Dropped from the line, at least initially, will be National Football League and Major League Baseball figures, as well as characters from DC Comics and Marvel. Still available will be dolls fashioned after popular personalities in World Wrestling Entertainment, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League, as well as some college mascots and politicians.
Of the discontinued lines, some the result of the bankruptcy, "I think the door is open with all of them," Hoffman said. But for now, the focus is on scaling down expensive licensing agreements and inventory "to build a strong foundation. What we did before is sort of go after everything and drown."
Hoffman, along with two other original investors in Bleacher Creatures, Ed and Peggy Strauss, a New York couple who started Pangea Brands in 2009, one year before Bleacher Creatures was founded. They would not disclose what they bid on the assets.
Hoffman and Ed Strauss said that won't be known until the end of 2017 as they continue to attempt to collect what was owed Bleacher Creatures, including amounts from retailers who themselves have declared bankruptcy, such as Toys R Us and Nerd Block.
"We loved the uniqueness of the ability to create plush that actually looks like a human, that whole idea that nobody else is really able to achieve," said Ed Strauss. He and his wife intend to use the titles co-managing partners at Uncanny Brands.
"I think we were all blown away by the quality of these things," said Peggy Strauss. "When confronted with this all going to go away, it was incredibly sad. We just felt in our gut … this is a great product."
"We took a big gamble on Matt now running a combined entity, but we really feel that Matt knows the licensing business so well that he would be the right person to combine these companies and build them into a licensing powerhouse," Ed Strauss said.
No. Hoffman said the plan is to move to another site within Plymouth Meeting. There are plans to add staff later this year to the current workforce of six. Orders still will be accepted at http://bleachercreatures.com. The dolls are made in China.