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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Oriental Trading

Iaman dug up a story from 2009 in the The Wall Street Journal about one Terrance Wantanabe, owner and heir of the Oriental Trading company, and how he lost $127 million in one year gambling in Las Vegas. Talk about going down in flames. Iaman reaches into the wayback machine and pulls out this recollection from 2002:
While working at Pitney Bowes, I visited a customer near the office in Omaha, the Oriental Trading Company office (OT). It was a odd business, huge corrugated steel building full of collapsing cardboard packages from China, messy, dirty, a couple employees running frantically ragged. No wonder his employees received starvation wages, I've never seen such dilapidated cars as those in the OT employee's parking lot.
Oriental Trading has expanded. They now have three buildings in the Omaha area. Below are images from Google Maps, all using the same scale. You can see how they have grown.



This building is 750,000 square feet which is 17 acres. The site is 120 acres.
They import gimcracks and geegaws, the kinds of trinkets they give away as prizes at the midway games at carnivals.

The company has changed hands several times in the last few years:

  • 2000 Terrance Watanabe sold Oriental Trading to Brentwood Associates
  • 2006 Brentwood sold it to the Carlyle Group for $1 billion. 
  • 2010 Oriental Trading files for bankruptcy. 
  • 2011 K.K.R. bought a portion of the company's debt. 
  • 2012 They sold it  to Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway for $500 million.

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