Then, last year, Mattel gave the world the Barbie movie. A nearly $1.5 billion dollar blockbuster success that, for a few months before and after the movie’s premiere, made us feel as though it was Barbie’s world and we were just living in it. The film’s director, Oscar-winner Greta Gerwig, took what could have been a two-hour advertisement for Mattel’s toys and made it a hot pink feminist fable that dove into ripe political issues such as corporate greed and gender politics.
UCLA Files Suit against Mattel
While Mattel succeeded at giving the world an escape from the real world and into Barbie’s world, it has allegedly failed to give $49 million to a children’s hospital, which it pledged to support. The lawsuit, which was filed in November 2023 on behalf of the Regents of the University of California and the UCLA Foundation, accuses Mattel of breach of contract, anticipatory breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, declaratory judgment, and promissory estoppel, for going back on its giving pledge and is seeking the full amount of the original pledge, plus damages for alleged financial difficulty stemming from the company’s decision to back out of its giving plan.
UCLA Alleges Mattel Pledged to Donate $49 Million to Children's Hospital
UCLA alleges that Mattel and UCLA entered into an agreement where Mattel pledged to donate $49 million to the children's hospital in installments over 12 years. In exchange for that hefty pledge, the hospital agreed to add Mattel's name to its own and incorporate Mattel’s corporate logo into its signage in an unprecedented act of corporate branding for a UCLA facility. Both changes came in response to and were predicated on the company's agreement "to give $49 million to The Regents, on behalf of UCLA Health, and the UCLA Foundation for the UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital to expand pediatric care and improve care for, and the health of, children across the globe.”
The following year, however, Mattel began postponing payments, citing its poor economic performance the prior year. Then, in 2021, Mattel stated that it would no longer make any ongoing pledged payments—even after it reported a net income of more than $900 million in 2021. Instead of providing the contracted-for funds necessary to provide care and advanced medical research, Mattel allegedly told UCLA that it planned to pay only $10 million more in its pledge, with only $2.5 million being in the form of cash, $5 million of marketing, and $2.5 million worth of Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels.
Barbie Movie Helps Mattel Improve Its Financial Position
Thanks to the Barbie movie, Mattel has improved its financial situation and continues strengthening its financial position, gaining market share, increasing cash flow, and growing net sales. Since Mattel postponed payments to UCLA, Mattel has reportedly earned over $1.3 billion in profit and is expected to receive $125 million from its share of the Barbie movie sales. As a result, UCLA filed this action claiming Mattel’s previously proffered reason for its inability to fulfill its pledge promise—its poor financial condition—is insufficient to avoid its pledge to UCLA.
We can only assume that Lawyer Barbie has her plate full between diligently preparing for the next steps in this litigation and the next Barbie movie.