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Diatribe: The Bawling Beanie Baby Billionaire.
I admit it … I bought one. I fell for a story about how one particular Beanie Baby was going to be the most valuable collectible piece of Americana in history. Pretty much everyone in the U.S. remembers that Beanie Babies became popular collectibles in the mid 1990s. Produced Ty, Inc. of Chicago, Illinois, the small stuffed animals were systematically “retired” and many people assumed that all “retired” designs would rise in value the way that early retirees had. It was not uncommon for Beanie Babies to be accidentally shipped out with incorrect or misspelled tags, which sometimes increased the toy’s value.
While they were originally intended to be played with by children, the demand for the bears as potentially valuable collectables created a secondary market in which the bears and accompanying accessories, including display cases, storage boxes and protective covers for the tags, could be found in hobby shops and convention centers nationwide.
The craze lasted through 1999 and slowly declined after the Ty company announced that they would no longer make Beanie Babies … long enough to make the toys’ creator a billionaire.
That billionaire, suburban Chicago businessman, H. Ty Warner, broke down crying in court yesterday as he pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion for hiding twenty-five million dollars in income in secret Swiss bank accounts. Warner, 69, apologized as he stood before a federal judge wiping away tears.
“I have so much to be thankful for. There is no excuse for my actions.” – H. Ty Warner.
The plea deal is alleged to include a prison term of approximately four years, which makes it likely that he will serve time behind bars, and requires him to pay a civil penalty of as much as fifty-three million dollars.
Warner, apparently, attempted to bare his transgressions before the judge who stopped him indicating that there would be time for him to elaborate at his sentencing in January. Warner admitted that he evaded paying five million dollars in taxes due to the IRS over an eleven-year period by setting up the secret accounts at one point concealing as much as one hundred seven million dollars.
Forbes recently estimated Warner’s net worth to be $2.6 billion so his Beanie Baby collection paid of handsomely. He certainly could have afforded his tax bill. But instead of crying his way to the bank he’s crying his way to prison.
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