Mattel has been manufacturing in Asia far longer than many companies (the first Barbie was made
there in 1959). That led to long-term relationships with certain Chinese contractors, many spanning decades. Paradoxically, that appears to have contributed to Mattel's problems: the longer it
outsourced to a factory supplier with good results, the looser the leash became.
Out of the public eye, Mattel is cleaning house. It has fired four subcontractors and is evaluating more. As part of its effort to rebuild its image, it is emphasizing that it is less dependent on Chinese contractors than most toy makers. It has run ads around the world featuring CEO Robert A. Eckert's vow to do better.