Mattel prepares to sell The Learning Company

Mattel Inc. announced April 3 that its Learning Company software business will be up for sale. Mattel has retained Credit Suisse First Boston Corp. to sell the money-losing Learning Company, which has been a burden for the El Segundo-based toymaker since it was acquired in May, 1999 for $3.6 billion.

None of Mattel’s other brands will be included in the deal for the software manufacturer, the company said in a statement.

Problems with the Learning Company led to Jill Barad’s resignation in February as Mattel’s chairman and chief executive officer. She announced her departure after Mattel reported a steep fourth-quarter loss—the fourth straight quarter in which the company had disappointed analysts.

The software business will be considered a discontinued operation in Mattel’s financial statements beginning March 31, 2000. Mattel declined to comment further on the matter.

The Learning Company was bought as part of Mattel’s effort to tap the growing market for interactive toys. The deal was supposed to immediately add $50 million annually to Mattel’s bottom line. The company instead lost $105 million in the third quarter because of a number of problems with the software division, including a loss of a key distribution deal and a high return of unsold products from retailers.

For all of 1999, Mattel lost $86.35 million, or 21 cents a share, compared with earnings of $198 million, or 51 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. Sales for the year were $5.5 billion, down from $5.62 billion in 1998.

Overheating Intel parts shut down Toshiba laptops

Intel Corp. acknowledged March 17 that some components it supplied are causing Toshiba laptop computers to heat up so much that they break down.

The flaw, which first appeared in Toshiba’s Satellite 4100 models, affects certain laptops containing 400-MHz Pentium II and Celeron processors. Toshiba Tecra 8000 computers also could be affected, as could laptops of other brands.

“We’re working with our customers, and fortunately it affects less than 1 percent of the total mobile Pentium II and Celeron shipments,” Intel spokesman Howard High said.

The flaw is in the module, or daughter card, containing the processor. The module is letting too much of the heat generated by the processor escape to heat up the rest of the computer, prompting it to shut down until repaired.

Some affected laptops shut down immediately, while it can take 60 days for problems to surface in others. Several hundred incidents already have been reported, according to Toshiba executive Steven Andler.

While Toshiba is the only PC manufacturer reporting the problem, sources close to Intel acknowledge other laptop makers have received faulty modules.

Toshiba said customers would receive replacement modules at no charge. The fix, which Santa Clara-based Intel pays for, takes about an hour for most laptops.

Eduventures.com to acquire Nelson B. Heller & Associates

Eduventures.com, a digital marketplace for news, research, and professional services related to the education industry, announced on March 9 that it would acquire Nelson B. Heller & Associates (NBH&A), publisher of The Heller Reports on Educational Technology Markets and founder of EdNET, an annual conference for education technology vendors.

Details of the transaction, which is expected to close by mid-summer, were not disclosed.

“This combination, following on the heels of our recent acquisition of The Education Industry Group, expands the breadth and depth of information and resources available on our web site and gives us new opportunities to build community,” said Thomas D. Dretler, Eduventures.com’s president and CEO.

Nelson B. Heller, industry consultant and president of NBH&A, will serve as president of Eduventures.com’s conference and print publishing division.

Eduventures.com sells research and information services related to the education industry. Its web-based resources are designed to help education businesses develop strategy, raise capital, and acquire talent.

MC2 Learning Systems renamed Centrinity

MC2 Learning Systems Inc. of Ontario has adopted a new name—Centrinity Inc.—that reflects the company’s broader technological scope and wider markets in the wake of its acquisition of SoftArc last year. The company’s new web address is http://www.centrinity.com

Centrinity also announced it will hire an additional 100 employees within the next 12 months to support its growth and invest $15 million in research and development initiatives within its new unified messaging (UM) development unit.

“MC2 acquired SoftArc to fast-track the company’s evolution and broaden its focus beyond collaborative learning solutions,” said Myles McGovern, president and CEO of Centrinity. “Centrinity is a result of that union, which meets a much more expansive need for team-oriented information exchange that leverages the convergence of telecommunications and computer networks.”

Centrinity will use SoftArc’s FirstClass architecture for computer and telephony integration solutions developed with its UM technology, which, according to the company, can accommodate an infinite range of communications protocols and give users access through any communications device to messages generated by voice, fax, or electronic media from a single unified mailbox.