Born in Ramat Gan (in Israel) and raised in Israel, Arad came to the United States during his college years and enrolled at Hofstra University to study industrial management. He earned a bachelor of business administration from the University in 1972.
Arad began his career working in the research and development department of Aurora Products, a division of Nabisco. In 1974, he began his own company and started developing situation comedies and action-adventure cartoon programs. Many of Arad’s fantasy concepts for television became successful toy products, including Seeker Centipead, the Rev-Um-Up Races, Switch Force, Rough Rider Tri-Ex and Speed Shooter. In the 1980's he joined Dietmar Nagel and Mel Kennedy in forming Nagel, Kennedy, Arad (NKA), a toy development company which subsequently, on Nagel's departure, became Arad Kennedy Associates. Arad, with Nagel and Kennedy, invented action toys for companies such as LJN Toys, Matchbox, Toy Biz, Tyco, Ideal, Ertl, Buddy-L, Schaper, Panosh, CBS Toys, Coleco, Combi, and Galoob Toys. In the 1990's Arad, with fellow toy maven Marvin Azrak, co-founded the Harley-Davidson Cafe restaurant chain. As early as 1991 Arad told confidants that his ambition was to produce a Spiderman film.
Along with Toy Biz co-owner Isaac Perlmutter, Avi Arad came into conflict with Carl Icahn and Ron Perelman over control of Marvel Comics in the wake of its 1996 bankruptcy. In the end, Arad and Perlmutter came out on top, with Toy Biz taking over Marvel Comics in a complicated deal that included obtaining the rights to Spider Man and other superheroes that Marvel had sold earlier. He was involved in Marvel's emergence from bankruptcy and the expansion of the company's profile through licensing and movies.
On July 4, 2003, Arad became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
Arad is credited as executive producer on the 1990s Marvel animated TV series, starting with 1992's X-Men for Fox Kids. Arad was the executive producer of Spike TV's Blade: The Series.
On May 31, 2006, Arad resigned his various Marvel positions, including his leadership of Marvel Studios to form his own production company, Avi Arad Productions. Although he is still producing projects for Marvel, his first feature outside Marvel was the August 2007 film Bratz: The Movie.
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