Barbie’s Heroes:Who’s Who in the Attempted Revival of a Franchise

Robert Eckert
Eckert joined Mattel in May 2000 after a 23-year career at Kraft Foods, where he rose to the chief executive’s position. He was charged with trying to rescue the company from a disastrous decision to purchase The Learning Co. in May 1999 for $3.5 billion, and to reinvigorate the all-important Barbie brand. Former executives say Mattel had the competitive intelligence to know girls were looking for a doll with more attitude than Barbie, but Eckert and Mattel failed to react quickly. Eckert is still struggling to rekindle Barbie’s glow.


Matthew Bousquette
President, Mattel Brands
Bousquette is Barbie’s real-life Ken, ultimately responsible for figuring out how to protect her against the Bratz attack. Bousquette has introduced a new line of My Scene Barbie American Idol dolls, signed tie-ins with teen star Lindsay Lohan, and created a new Barbie Live in Fairytopia stage show to regain Barbie’s glitz.

Thomas Debrowski
Executive Vice President, Worldwide Operations
Debrowski is responsible for reducing the time it takes to move a new Barbie doll, such as My Scene Lindsay Lohan, from the design stage to Wal-Mart’s shelves. Debrowski was a colleague of Eckert at Kraft Foods, where he worked for 20 years.

Bob Normile
Senior Vice President and General Counsel
Normile is leading Mattel’s efforts to try to crush Bratz maker MGA Entertainment in the courts. In April, Mattel filed a suit against Carter Bryant, a former Mattel designer, arguing that he essentially stole the company’s intellectual property while still working at Mattel. Bryant’s lawyer denies that’s the case.


Joseph Eckroth
Chief Information Officer
New Century Financial Corp.
Eckroth, Mattel’s former CIO, was new CEO Eckert’s first hire, joining the company in August 2000 from GE Medical Systems, where he was CIO. Eckroth dumped many of the company’s custom-built applications in favor of packaged software, such as business intelligence tools from Cognos and Hyperion Software. The underlying goal was to speed the company’s decision-making processes. He left the company in June.

Bruce Stein
The Hatchery
Stein was second-in-command to former Mattel chief executive Jill Barad, until he left the company in a management shakeup in March 1999. Stein says there was reluctance within the company to mess with the Barbie franchise, and that may have prevented Mattel from creating a Bratz-like product of its own.

Ivy Ross
Executive Vice President, Product Design and Development
Gap Inc.
Ross, Mattel’s senior vice president of worldwide girls design until January 2004, is credited with helping Mattel establish an innovative product development process—an idea lab across from Mattel’s El Segundo, Calif., headquarters. The lab created ello, a construction set aimed at the Barbie crowd.

Patricia Lewis
Adjunct Professor, Kogod School of Business
American University
Lewis has experienced the Mattel marketing machine from both sides—as director of marketing for Barbie in the 1980s, and as head of marketing for Tyco’s Little Mermaid dolls. She saw early signals that some girls wanted an edgier Barbie, but back then the yearning wasn’t so serious. Barbie continued to rule.