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Mattel looks to sell software unit

The struggling toy maker hires investment bank Credit Suisse First Boston to help sell its Learning Company unit less than a year after buying the firm.

    Toy maker Mattel today said it has hired investment bank Credit Suisse First Boston to help sell its Learning Company unit less than a year after buying the firm for $3.6 billion.

    Chief executive Jill Barad, who stepped down in February after a troubled three-year tenure, had urged the company to acquire Learning Company last May.

    At the time, Barad saw the deal as a way for Mattel to diversify its product line. Learning Company makes popular educational and entertainment programs such as "Sesame Street" and "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?"

    But instead of expanding its reach, Mattel has watched the interactive software unit cut into its profits, and the company said today that it has incurred substantial operating losses from the acquisition. From the onset, Mattel also has had to contend with accounting problems at Learning Company.

    The move comes less than a month after Mattel fired employees at the unit in an effort to cut more than $100 million in costs.

    The unit posted a $183 million loss in the fourth quarter and was closed as of March 31, the company said.

    Mattel added that it does not intend to include any of its Mattel brands in the sale.