Jack Friedman, co-founder and chairman of Malibu toymaker Jakks Pacific Inc., died Monday after being hospitalized for several weeks. He was 70.
Friedman founded Jakks with Stephen Berman in 1995, serving as chairman and chief executive until March 31 of this year. Berman, 44, who had been president and chief operating officer and was named co-CEO in February, took over as sole chief executive.
The company did not say Monday who would be taking over the chairmanship duties.
With more than a half century of toy industry experience, Friedman launched some of the most successful toys in the industry, including the first movie tie-in toys for “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” and was a pioneer in the video game industry. Before Jakks, Friedman ran LJN Toys until its sale to MCA in 1985. He went on to form Agoura Hills video game developer THQ Inc. in 1989, leading it until 1995.
"Jack was a legendary toymaker and a real titan in our industry,” Berman said in a statement. “He dedicated his talents to Jakks Pacific for 15 years, and he will be sorely missed.”
Friedman also was a philanthropist and supporter of the company's Jakks Cares program, which donated more than $40 million worth of toys and school supplies to children around the world. The Business Journal last year recognized Jakks as one of the "Top 20 Corporate Philanthropists in Los Angeles." The Toy Industry Foundation also has recognized the company as a "Power Player Philanthropist.”
In a statement, Jakks’ board of directors called Friedman “a visionary leader who guided the company with wisdom and keen judgment. Toys were his passion, and his legacy will live on in Jakks Pacific.”
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