Barbie’s $155 Million Opening Bodes Well for CEO Ynon Kreiz’s Business Strategy

The company's stock is up 55 percent since Kreiz became CEO.

Ynon Kreiz stands in front of a large "B" in the Barbie font.
Ynon Kreiz, Mattel CEO, at the “Barbie” premiere. WireImage

The much-anticipated Barbie movie topped box office charts this weekend, earning $155 million in ticket sales in the U.S. The earnings represent the highest-grossing opening of 2023, and it earned a spot in the top 25 openings of all time, data from Box Office Mojo shows.

The box office success of Barbie isn’t happening in a vacuum. The film is part of a strategy from the owner of the Barbie brand—Mattel—to invigorate its audience and capture new consumers by reintroducing its products into pop culture. Mattel is working on a series of films based on its toys and games, including a horror-comedy about the Magic 8 Ball, a comedy featuring the American Girl dolls and a Barney film filled with “millennial angst,” the New Yorker reported. Mattel reportedly has 45 films in development, including projects revolving around Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, Polly Pocket, Hot Wheels and the Uno card game. The strategy appears to be paying off, with Barbie’s global box office earnings of $337 million already surpassing the film’s reported production and marketing budgets of around $295 million.

Ynon Kreiz, CEO of Mattel since April 2018, drove the strategy. He stepped into the role amid turbulent times for the toy and entertainment company. Mattel had shuffled through four chief executives in the six years leading up to Kreiz inheriting the position. In the months ahead of Kreiz’s appointment, sales and profit were down from the same period the year prior, the latter by 21 percent, according to the company’s earnings statement. Mattel’s stock price hit a nine-year low, and after further declines through the Covid-19 pandemic, its stock is up 55 percent since Kreiz became CEO, trading today at $21.60 per share.

In an effort to turn Mattel’s fortunes around, Kriez embarked on a major cost-cutting initiative. He shut down the New York office and laid off 2,200 workers, or 22 percent of Mattel’s corporate workforce. In the first three years of his tenure, Kriez cut $1 billion in costs and announced a goal of producing all Mattel toys from recycled, recyclable or bio-based materials by 2030, as part of a larger commitment to sustainability.

The strategy also included revamping Mattel’s revenue model by leaning on intellectual property like Barbie. Kriez is pushing into fashion, non-fungible token sales, limited-edition products and video games in addition to filmmaking, Kreiz told CNBC last year. In 2022, the company reported $5.44 billion in sales, up 20 percent from 2018’s yearly total.

Who is Ynon Kreiz?

Kreiz, 58, graduated Tel Aviv University in 1991 with a degree in economics and management. He then attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he earned his MBA in 1993. In 1996, he co-founded Fox Kids Europe, the company broadcasting children’s television in Europe and the Middle East. As chairman and CEO, he took the company public in 1999 before the Walt Disney Company bought its majority stakeholder Fox Family Worldwide in 2002. Kreiz then worked as a general partner at Benchmark Capital, a European venture capital firm, where he spent time in the media and technology sector. He became CEO of Endemol, a Netherland-based television company, in 2008. Endemol produced reality franchises like Big Brother, Deal or No Deal and Wipeout

Kreiz moved on to become CEO of Maker Studios in 2013. The company produced short-form videos on YouTube with more than 55,000 creators. The next year, Kriez negotiated the $500 million sale of Maker Studios to Disney. His next job was as CEO of Mattel. Since 2015, he has served as a member of UCLA’s Anderson School of Management Board of Advisors. That same year, he joined the board of directors for Warner Music Group.

Barbie’s $155 Million Opening Bodes Well for CEO Ynon Kreiz’s Business Strategy