ENTREPRENEUR KEN HAKUTA said he is negotiating to buy toy direct marketer FAO Schwarz from bankrupt parent FAO Inc., according to reports. Hakuta has hired as an adviser the Peter J. Solomon Co., located in the same building as the flagship FAO store in New York. Hakuta is known for developing unconventional toys. FAO, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection the first week of December for the second time this year, had until Dec. 15 to find a buyer for both FAO Schwarz and Right Start, its cataloger and retailer of baby apparel. In a separate development, FAO hired DJM Asset Management LLC to dispose of the leases of 89 Zany Brainy stores.
ABERCROMBIE & FITCH said it would increase the size and distribution of its catalog in the wake of its decision to shutter A & F Quarterly, its controversial magalog. “While it has enjoyed success with the quarterly over the years, the company believes it is time for new thinking and looks forward to unveiling an innovative and exciting campaign in the spring,” said the company in a statement. Spokesman Thomas Lennox said the New London, OH-based company would increase the circulation of its quarterly catalog Scope in January but declined to reveal specific numbers.
AN ARMED FORMER EMPLOYEE OF PRINT XCEL, a printing plant owned by Mail-Well Inc., entered the Visalia, CA plant the morning of Dec. 9 and shot an employee before killing himself, according to a statement from Mail-Well. The murdered employee and the gunman were not identified. The shooter, who according to reports had been fired several years ago, also set fire to several paper rolls, according to published reports. The plant normally employs 80 people. According to reports, 46 staffers were inside the building at the time of the shooting. According to Mail-Well, all other employees have been accounted for. The names of the gunman and the victim were not available at deadline.
MAILING FIRM LAUNCHPOINT INC. acquired the outbound telemarketing division of Acacia International Inc. from ComSpan USA. ComSpan will retain Acacia’s inbound call center operations and will provide Launchpoint access to ComSpan’s technology platform for future upgrades. The outbound call center will be run out of Launchpoint’s headquarters in Portland, OR. Mark Hollis, former general manager at Acacia, has been appointed as the new director of teleservices at Launchpoint.
TOM BAZZONE left his position as chief operations officer and board member of cataloger and retailer Restoration Hardware to pursue other opportunities. Bazzone was named executive vice president and COO of the Corte Madera, CA firm in June 2001.
THE MOBILE MARKETING ASSOCIATION, an industry trade group for wireless and mobile-commerce technologies, released a code of conduct for the prevention of mobile spam in wireless marketing campaigns. Under the code, consumers must opt in to receive mobile messaging programs. They may choose to receive messages by sending a text message, calling a voice response unit or registering on a Web site or through some legitimate paper-based method. They must opt in for a specific program only. Mobile programs with multiple message strings must also provide an opt-out for consumers.
LOWE & PARTNERS WORLDWIDE AND DRAFT INC. rebranded Lowe TTL in Sao Paulo as Draft Brazil. With this Brazil operation, Draft has 29 offices in 23 countries. Lowe and Draft, sibling agencies under the partnership division of the Interpublic Group, formed a global alliance under the Lowe Plus Draft banner.
RICHARD N. TOOKER joined Richardson, TX-based KnowledgeBase Marketing as vice president, solutions architect. He will offer consulting services to KnowledgeBase’s clients and develop integrated, ROI-driven programs for them. Tooker had previously been with DMW LLC, a direct response agency, where he was responsible for business development, strategic partnerships, database marketing and interactive marketing initiatives.
TRANSUNION acquired Douglas-Danielle Inc., a firm that offers marketing campaign creation, management and analysis products and services. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. TransUnion will integrate Douglas-Danielle’s SmartSites Web-based campaign management tools into its own offerings. Additionally, Trans Union will incorporate the agency services capabilities Douglas-Danielle brings to the firm, such as program planning, creative, data and media services, into its operations. Michael Browning will remain as the company’s president, and will become a group vice president within TransUnion. Plans call for all 42 employees, including upper management, to join TransUnion.
EASTMAN KODAK CO. acquired Scitex Digital Printing for $250 million. Based in Dayton, OH, Scitex furnishes systems for printing direct marketing materials, as well as utility bills, banking and credit card statements, invoices, financial statements and other transactional documents. This acquisition is part of the Rochester, NY film giant’s $3 billion plan to expand into digital markets. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter.
WOLFGANG HAF has been tapped to serve as CEO of Wunderman Central Europe, a newly created position. The office will unify Wunderman’s direct marketing operations across nine offices located in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Haf most recently served as president and chief client officer of Wunderman EMEA. Before that, he was president of Wunderman’s Asia-Pacific operation. Prior to joining Wunderman, he spent 14 years in the Young & Rubicam group of companies.
PAUL M. WILLIAMS, 56, a sales leader at Acxiom Corp., was killed in a car crash. In a message to Acxiom employees, company leader Charles Morgan described Williams as “an exceptional man — one of the kindest, most gracious, most caring people I have ever known.” Prior to being named sales leader, Williams had headed Acxiom’s services division, which focuses on managing client relations across a variety of industries. Williams had been with Acxiom since 1989. Before joining the Little Rock, AR-based firm, he held several jobs in the data industry, including positions with Computer Associates International, IBM Corp. and several financial services companies. Williams is survived by his wife Nancy, and his daughters Traci and Melissa.
CREATIVE DIRECT RESPONSE INC. promoted Ray Grace from president to chairman of the board. Geoff Peters, former executive vice president, now becomes president of the Crofton, MD direct marketing agency.
SHOP AT HOME NETWORK named Michael S. Lubka executive vice president, chief merchandising officer. Lubka joined Shop at Home from Neiman Marcus Direct, where he was senior vice president and general manager of the firm’s Chef’s Catalog and chefscatalog.com businesses. He also oversaw the men’s electronics and collectibles division for Neiman Marcus Direct.