Mattel was forced to deliver a humiliating public apology to “the Chinese people” on Friday over the damaging succession of product recalls of China-made toys that the U.S. toy maker has announced in recent months. In a carefully stage-managed meeting in Beijing with a senior Chinese official, which, unusually, was open to the media, Thomas Debrowski, Mattel's executive vice-president for worldwide operations, read out a prepared text that played down the role of Chinese factories in the recalls.
“Mattel takes full responsibility for these recalls and apologises personally to you, the Chinese people, and all of our customers who received the toys,” Mr. Debrowski said. The apology was in stark contrast to recent comments from Robert Eckert, Mattel's chief executive. In testimony to the U.S. Senate last week, he suggested that the fault for the group's recent product recalls lay with outside contractors. “We were let down, and so we let you down,” he said.
—“Mattel in Apology to Chinese,” Financial Times, September 22, 2007, p. 15
Bob Eckhart, CEO of Mattel (U.S.), had a problem—a big problem. Mattel had discovered on July 30 that a number of its toys manufactured in China contained lead paint. The following month had seen a series of recalls, rising political tensions between the United States and Chinese governments, and a suicide. But no company had been in China longer than Mattel; the original Barbie had been created there ...