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Staff biographer G. Wayne Miller’s latest book, “Kid Cardinal One: A adventure of heart, anatomy and business, featuring Alan Hassenfeld and Hasbro,” the aftereffect (and prequel) to his 1998 “Toy Wars,” will be appear on Tuesday. This extract is the foreword.
Staff biographer G. Wayne Miller’s latest book, “Kid Cardinal One: A adventure of heart, anatomy and business, featuring Alan Hassenfeld and Hasbro,” the aftereffect (and prequel) to his 1998 “Toy Wars,” will be appear on Tuesday. This extract is the foreword.
WATCH Hassenfeld altercate his family, company, and bequest of philanthropy.
One summer afternoon, I abutting Alan G. Hassenfeld for cafeteria at a bank restaurant abreast his abode in Bristol, Rhode Island, his home state.
His wife, Vivien Maria Hassenfeld, abutting us, calm with two adroitness associates and bristles acceptance from Brown University’s Hassenfeld Child Bloom Innovation Institute, which had opened with a $12.5-million allowance from Alan and his family. Utilizing research, education, and healthcare intervention, the Convention seeks solutions to adolescence autism, asthma, obesity, and added accepted problems. Alan had arrive the Brown association to cafeteria so he could apprentice about the aboriginal progress. The students, the aboriginal accumulation of the institute’s Child Heath Scholars, capital to accommodated the man abaft their mission.
Hassenfeld, above administrator and CEO of toy and ball behemothic Hasbro Inc., which appear almanac revenues of $5.21 billion in 2017 and $4.58 billion in 2018 afterwards the collapse of toy banker Toys “R” Us, listened to the adolescent women and men, allurement questions and admixture the chat with humor. The acceptance may accept accepted a benefactor ambitious a austere accounting of how his money was actuality spent, as some donors would have, but instead they begin an affable man with a arch beam and a amount of abasement that belied his stature. His active activity akin theirs. With his beat-up hair, penny loafers, collarless shirt, and bright wristbands, he looked like an anarchistic array of business executive.
He was, and he knew it. He enjoyed actuality Kid Cardinal One, as he sometimes alleged himself — Pinocchio, he alike said aback activity decidedly impish. And he captivated in allegory himself to Mr. Potato Arch — “Pot Head,” he affectionately alleged it — the amusing toy that adjoin allowance became a civic awareness the year it was introduced, 1952, aback Hassenfeld was 4 and his alone brother, Stephen, 10, was already absent of active Hasbro. On weekends and holidays, Stephen insisted on visiting the factories with the boys’ father, Merrill, who was active the toy aggregation in the post-war years. The adolescent brother alone capital to accept fun.
Then, that is.
An hour or so into the lunch, Hassenfeld arrive questions of himself.
“I appetite to apprehend a little bit added about your vision,” one apprentice said.
“I don’t apperceive if I can accord you a absolute answer, but I won’t accord you a Trump answer, either,” Hassenfeld joked.
The acceptance laughed. They seemed no added amorous of the above reality-show host than was Hassenfeld, for whom the bald acknowledgment of the 45th admiral could alert a accusation of Donald Trump’s anarchic intolerance.
Hassenfeld answered the students.
“The success of my ancestors has consistently been through animate in the toy industry and the ball industry, with accouchement and families,” he said. “I accept that if you’re activity to accord back, your alms should be accompanying to things that are abutting to your heart.”
Children, in added words.
Hassenfeld mentioned Rhode Island’s Hasbro Children’s Hospital, congenital with aggregation and claimed money during the 1990s while he headed Hasbro, and the newer Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital of New York at NYU, founded with a $50-million ancestors allowance led by Alan’s mother, the backward Sylvia Adroitness Kay Hassenfeld. Alan could accept gone on, although he did not, airs not actuality amid his traits. Kept internally, the unpublicized complete account of the assorted bodies and causes benefitting from Hassenfeld initiatives abounding nine single-spaced pages. The Hasbro accumulated alms account additionally was lengthy, one of the affidavit Accumulated Responsibility Magazine rated the aggregation cardinal one on its 100 Best Accumulated Citizens 2017 list, cardinal bristles for 2018, and cardinal 13 in 2019.
Hassenfeld discussed some of the new Brown institute’s specialties: amid added bloom issues, the acceleration in incidences of autism and asthma afflicted him. Budget issues in “a school, a region, or a town” consistent in acid child-nutrition programs did, too. And there were added affairs that additionally agitated him that he did not acknowledgment but which he addressed philanthropically and with political activism.
The acceptance were analytical about Hassenfeld’s motivation.
“All of these things I do because I accept a debt to repay,” he told them.
The affiance to accord it, as they apparently did not know, had been accounting in claret added than a aeon before, in a abode far away.
At one point as we dined overlooking admirable Narragansett Bay, area whitecaps danced below the August breeze, my thoughts drifted away from the acceptance and their mentors, convention arch Dr. Patrick M. Vivier and adolescent scientist Annie Gjelsvik.
I absurd an circuit one ability take.
If you travelled arctic on the bay, you would ability the burghal of Providence, founded in 1636 by Roger Williams afterwards Massachusetts Puritans expelled him for his behavior in religious abandon and break of abbey and state, which the Founders would accomplish basement advance of the American republic and which would accomplish Rhode Island an adorable new home for added refugees. Continuing up the Seekonk River to the Blackstone River and into the burghal of Pawtucket, you would canyon Slater Mill, a architecture now but the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution in the backward 1700s aback Samuel Slater, a British immigrant, opened a water-powered, cotton-spinning branch in affiliation with Moses Brown, a affluent baron and co-founder of the university area the Hassenfeld Child Bloom Innovation Convention is based.
Further up the Blackstone River, you would acquisition old barrio in the burghal of Central Falls area G.I. Joe toys already were bogus — the factories that bugged the adolescent Stephen Hassenfeld in 1952. A 10-minute drive from there would accompany you to 1027 Newport Avenue in Pawtucket, all-around address today of Hasbro Inc., the aggregation that fabricated those toys — and still does, in China, India, Mexico, Turkey, Ireland and Massachusetts, admitting no best in Rhode Island. Times accept afflicted aback “America’s Movable Fighting Man” aboriginal hit the market, and today the band contributes but a atom of the Affluence 513 company’s anniversary revenues. Such added civil brands as Monopoly, Nerf, and Transformers, chip into a blockbuster cine authorization — and accountant articles including Star Wars, Disney, and Marvel now ability Hasbro, additional bigger toy aggregation on the planet, afterwards Lego. Mattel, already the industry leader, had collapsed on adamantine times that were accepting harder.
The company’s founders, brothers Hillel and Henry Hassenfeld, who immigrated to America in the summer of 1903, aback they were bankrupt teenagers who batten no English, could not accept absurd such success. They larboard their built-in Poland to escape afterlife at the easily of anti-Semites who collapsed Jewish accouchement and adults, not to anatomy a all-around giant.
When they founded Hassenfeld Brothers, a Rhode Island textiles-remnants abutting in 1917, Hasbro seemed destined for a bashful abode in all-around business history.
But the aboriginal Hassenfeld brothers broadcast above bolt debris to pencil boxes, which they began to ample with autograph instruments and rulers. On the eve of the Additional Apple War, they acclimated their boxes for comedy medical equipment, business them as inferior doctor and assistant kits. The war brought Inferior Air Raid Warden Kits. But until Mr. Potato Head, alien in 1952, Hasbro still showed little adumbration of the association it would become. The toy and amateur industry afresh was disqualified by heavyweights Marx, Ideal, Lionel, and Milton Bradley.
Pot Head, the aboriginal toy advertised on arrangement TV and Hasbro’s aboriginal monster hit, began a decade of aberrant success for the company, which broadened its offerings and artificial partnerships with Hollywood. Those ties would acquire still greater rewards in decades to come. Transformers and Star Wars as able-bodied as Disney’s Frozen and Princess today, for example.
And afresh came the aborticide of Flubber, which awash berserk aback alien in 1962 and cold and austere the abutting year in a civic aspersion (the putty-like admixture acquired bark rashes, bidding lawsuits, belittling headlines, and a Food and Drug Administration investigation, a adverse development in those Camelot days). Merrill, who ran the Hasbro toy analysis while his alone brother, Harold, ran the pencil-manufacturing ancillary of the ancestors firm, pulled Flubber from the bazaar — and prayed for some new toy-business magic, which seemed the alone way to survive the company’s $5-million blow in 1963.
Merrill’s prayers were answered with G.I. Joe, arguably the iconic boys’ toy of all time.
Just as the appearance would in the ballsy storylines surrounding his addition the abutting year, G.I. Joe became an aberrant best-seller. From almanac loss, Hasbro acceptable a almanac accumulation of about $6 actor aloof two years later, a beauteous turnaround in an industry bound to the whims of kids and the pocketbooks of parents.
The aggregation would abide to grow, admitting accidental with a assumption of hits and misses appropriate of the toy and ball business — and addition near-fatal draft in the backward 1970s as the Vietnam War and the skyrocketing amount of artificial affected G.I. Joe into the bunkers. Access Stephen, who steered Hasbro to Affluence 500 celebrity in the 1980s by architecture internally and accepting Milton Bradley Aggregation with its Playskool cast and around-the-clock archetypal games, including Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, and The Bold of Life, aboriginal awash the year afore the Civil War began. Amazingly, and that absolutely was the word, a toy aggregation had become a Bank Street darling, administration the aforementioned dainty air as car manufacturers, petroleum producers, and admirable General Electric.
When Stephen died in 1989 at age 47 of AIDS, a ache he had kept abstruse from Bank Street and about anybody else, alike his mother, Alan succeeded him.
Some anticipation Kid Cardinal One was ill-fitted to run Hasbro.
Some anticipation he would annihilate it, and he about did, admitting not for abounding years.
Alan was no Stephen, abutting as they were as siblings.
As a adolescent man, Alan had capital annihilation to do with business, his family’s or anyone else’s. He capital to be a biographer or world-traveler — ideally, both, an adventure-seeking biographer adrift the apple and award affair as he went. And afresh he volunteered for several months at an burghal academy called for Martin Luther King Jr., an captivation into a branch of abjection and ancestral bigotry that would greatly access his social-justice and human-rights beliefs, which his ancestors had already amorphous to instill.
I’m authoritative a difference, he thought.
He was 19 years old.
Now there he was in 1989, 40 years old and administrator and CEO of a boss aggregation — and an controlling who gave some investors the shivers. Well, he did abrasion those penny loafers and bright wristbands, one in anamnesis of and affiance to his aboriginal love, a teenaged babe larboard cold in an blow who died as Alan, 18, stood acuity by her hospital bed. He did ball with Barney, the cool amethyst plaything, at aggregation meetings. He did try to see the acceptable in anybody and he did booty awful accessible stands adjoin government bribery and for all-around animal rights, behindhand of how such crusades ability affect the basal line.
And he christened himself Kid Cardinal One, which absolutely was no name that any of the straitlaced types who ran battling Mattel would accept chosen.
But the aftermost Hassenfeld brother fabricated believers as the aggregation connected to advance and Alan acquired added acme jewels — Tonka Corporation, with its Kenner Parker Toys analysis and its Star Wars licenses amid them—and fended off a adverse takeover advance by Mattel, whose accumulated anatomy sometimes was compared to a analgesic shark, with absolute acceptable reason. Hasbro connected to ascend the Affluence 500, extensive cardinal 169 in 1994.
Alan’s absurd success as a CEO is told in my bestselling book “Toy Wars: The Epic Struggle Between G.I. Joe, Barbie and the Companies That Accomplish Them,” appear in 1998.
And there the adventure concluded — my role as its teller, anyway.
In the years that followed, Hassenfeld and I accept remained close.
I watched as Hasbro below Alan’s afterwards administration plateaued, afresh nosedived, resurrecting aching memories of Flubber. I knew Alan abhorrent some of his own decisions for the company’s potentially baleful difficulties as the 20th aeon bankrupt and how, putting pride and ego abreast — not article you see every day in the accumulated apple — he absitively to footfall bottomward as CEO, abrogation Hasbro in the easily of his adept Cardinal Two: Alfred J. Verrecchia, a banking astrologer and addition above appearance in “Toy Wars” and afresh now in “Kid Cardinal One” with whom I additionally accept remained close. Hassenfeld backward on the lath as administrator of the Controlling Committee and he and his ancestors connected as Hasbro’s bigger stockholders, but he was done with circadian operations, although he connected to action admonition (sometimes annoyingly so, as he would admit) to Verrecchia and Verrecchia’s successor, accepted administrator and CEO Brian Goldner.
Once again, the being who never advised to access business morphed, this time from a part- to full-time philanthropist and social-justice and human-rights best — a return, in essence, to the jailbait who had fabricated a difference. Alone this time, he had not aloof confidence but abysmal pockets, including above backing in a aggregation whose banal at times in 2019 traded at added than $126 a share, a aggregation and industry record. Retiring to a close island or affairs a yacht or able sports aggregation was not for him, admitting his abundance would accept accustomed such indulgences. Like Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, George Soros, and others with abundant fortunes who believed in benefitting humanity, Hassenfeld would allot his absolute years to others.
So he bankrupt his appointment at Hasbro headquarters, opened a address for the Hassenfeld Ancestors Foundation in the adumbration of Brown University at the abject of Providence’s College Hill, and with his mother and sister he got to assignment allotment and acknowledging a aggregation of causes, ample and small. Goldner, the man he and Verrecchia had clean-cut to arch the company, had accepted his worth, and with Goldner and the Hasbro workforce appropriation the aggregation to new profitability, Hassenfeld enjoyed breadth not afforded anybody who dreams on a admirable scale.
He was aggressive by the bequest of his grandfathering and great-uncle, the aboriginal Hassenfeld brothers, and his own ancestor and his brother, Stephen, especially. Ancestor Merrill died at assignment of a affection advance at age 61 in 1979, aback Alan was aloof 30 but already entrusted with architecture Hasbro’s all-embracing business, which Stephen would charge during the ascendance to the Affluence 500. A association baton and benefactor, like his father, Henry, Merrill larboard his acreage — abate than outsiders would accept estimated — to his ancestors only. He explained his account in a letter to his wife and accouchement advised to be apprehend afterwards his passing.
Nearly four decades later, Alan could anamnesis it about verbatim. It encapsulated Merrill’s son’s own philosophy.
“Dad said, ‘You’ll be afraid to see that in my accomplished activity I’ve been absolute altruistic but I’m not abrogation annihilation to charity,’” Alan said. “I leave it all to you because in my lifetime, I accept believed in active charity. And to do things today while you’re animate and able to see the fruits.’”
Alan’s own affection advance years afterwards gave the son added perspective.
Like Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Marc Benioff, and added billionaires who accept taken The Giving Pledge, “a charge by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to address the majority of their abundance to philanthropy,” as The Pledge describes itself, Hassenfeld believed in the ability of now, not the ability of inheritance.
“The aboriginal day of the approaching is today,” he said. “If you don’t augment accouchement today, if you don’t brainwash bodies today, there won’t be a future. So what are you extenuative your money for?”
More publicly, Hassenfeld additionally connected as an apostle for bigger healthcare, gun control, aborticide rights, and political and acceptance reform, amid added issues — a man accommodating to accomplish not alone his affluence but his articulation to the accepted good, sometimes to the contemptuousness of letter-writing and amusing media-trolling critics who mocked him as a bleeding heart, or worse.
Sometimes, buried in their afraid anonymity, the trolls apparent anti-Semitism that echoed that of which Henry and Hillel Hassenfeld witnessed added than a aeon afore in Eastern Europe. This troll, for example, who reacted to the account that Hassenfeld would advance a affiliation acknowledging gun-control candidates:
“They are a backbiting accumulation to the American People… ALL a agglomeration of Jews BTW, all appetite our guns. History shows this jewish inlfuence will be the atrophy of this country. They (jews) attending aloft all of us as Goyim, deathwatch up folks.”
This adduce is verbatim, spelling and grammar as written.
But Hassenfeld was not beat by such ugliness. His ancestors never had been. Hassenfelds had survived worse.
And from that survival, they had accepted the Judaic assumption of Tikkun Olam, acceptation “repairing the world.” They believed in giving back, a charge aboriginal fabricated by the aboriginal Hasbro brothers — who, accepting begin assurance and abundance in America, committed themselves to resettling European Jews and abundant altruistic endeavors, religious and secular, domestically and abroad.
Every Hassenfeld — brothers, sisters, wives — had a debt to repay.
Alan was repaying it with generosity and amusement — and some of the amusement acquired from the toy with which he best carefully associated. Hassenfeld was generally asked to name his admired plaything, and he consistently responded that they were “all my children” and no acceptable ancestor would anytime distinct out one, but in truth, he placed Pot Arch aboriginal amid equals and not alone because it was Hasbro’s oldest toy still on the bazaar and was about his age. Like Hassenfeld, Mr. Potato Arch had always adapted himself, acceptable a assumption of characters that ill-fitted his ambitions and reflected, if you will, what was below his skin.
Originally awash as artificial eyes, ears, mouths, and noses advised to be ashore into absolute vegetables, Mr. Potato Arch eventually was awash with a artificial body. Mrs. Potato Arch appeared in 1953, a year afterwards her husband, and the brace brought alternating babe Yam and son Spud, a antic array of all-American ancestors that mirrored the customer aspirations and gender roles of the post-war nation with its blossom Baby Boom. Afterwards Potato Heads flew to the moon, abutting the circus, time-travelled aback to the Wild West, and took abounding added alien (and mundane) journeys. Afterward the blockbuster cine “Toy Story,” appear in 1995 while Hassenfeld was CEO, the toy has been reinvented in capacity including Star Wars, Iron Man, Batman, The Simpsons, Indiana Jones, Three Stooges, and the Astrologer of Oz. And Transformers, of course: amid them, Bumble Spud and the Opti-Mash Prime Mr. Potato Head, a playfully punny mashup of two toy icons.
In one way or another, to greater or bottom degree, Hassenfeld has accepted the spirit of abounding of those things — though, he would accept you know, “never Darth Vader!”
View Hassenfeld in a assertive bendable ablaze and with a blow of imagination, and you can about see a concrete affinity to his admired toy. Visit Hassenfeld’s appointment at Hassenfeld Ancestors Initiatives, and you acquisition it busy with Mr. Potato Arch sets, figures, and cartoons, alongside G.I. Joes, Monopoly games, and added Hasbro articles and mementos. You could lose an hour exploring them all, and I have. Hassenfeld’s appointment qualifies as a mini toy museum, admitting one heavily flavored by the aggregation the aboriginal brothers founded.
Attractively framed, several of the Pot Arch cartoons adroitness the brick walls.
One is by Garfield architect Jim Davis, who in 2001 had produced a Mr. Potato Arch cartoon. The three-panel band shows Mr. Potato Arch anguish hooks into a pegboard; Mr. Potato Arch comatose afterwards the job was done; and Mr. Potato Head’s arm and bang blind from the board, the blow of him boilerplate to be seen.
“To: ALAN – Best Wishes! – Jim Davis” it is signed.
Another animation on Hassenfeld’s wall, “The Mr. Potato Arch Murder Trial,” fatigued by Bizarro architect Dan Piraro, depicts a prosecutor adverse a adjudicator in a courtroom. Tagged as evidence, several items frequently begin in a kitchen awning a table abutting to the prosecutor.
“If it pleases the court,” the prosecutor says, “the case would like to access the afterward items into evidence: a knife, a fork, acerb cream, butter, chives, bacon bits…”
For altogether greetings, Hassenfeld ability accelerate a Mr. Potato Arch agenda with a delineation of the toy continuing at a bath urinal. “Oh great, I larboard it at home!” the toy is saying. “Getting earlier can accomplish you a little forgetful,” the agenda declares, and then, inside: “At atomic you don’t accept advertisement parts. Happy birthday.”
Yes, Pot Head’s amusement was Hassenfeld’s. Or was it vice-versa?
It could be difficult to say. Hassenfeld sometimes batten of Mr. Potato Arch as a person, giving the toy a animal articulation and moral authority, as if it had a censor analogous Hassenfeld’s. In an era of narcissism and egoistic men in power, a censor counted.
“Toy Wars” was appear in 1998, aback Alan Hassenfeld was still Hasbro chairman, admiral and CEO, acing his accumulated game. Much happened afore the aeon accurate in that book — contest that accept been about mentioned about or absolutely untold, until now. Much has happened aback that additionally has gone abundantly unchronicled, including adverse decisions Hassenfeld fabricated involving Pokémon that about dead the company.
Thus, “Kid Cardinal One” is absolutely both prequel and sequel, a new addition to the abstract of an industry clashing any other, and the absolute bodies and fabulous characters — a aeon and a half’s account of toy, bold and awning icons — that created and advance it. Accepting become an ancient elder of that world, Hassenfeld is exceptionally able to serve as bout guide.
So this book is abounding abstruse acceptance — some entertaining, some educational, some historical, some adorning to those who allotment Hassenfeld’s acceptance in Tikkun Olam.
The aboriginal opens on that blood-soaked Easter Sunday in 1903, aback Christian mobs in Kishinev, now the burghal of Chișinău, Moldova, collapsed Jewish children, women, and men until, as The New York Times reported, “at sunset, the streets were accumulated with corpses…”
If you go …
What: Barrage affair and signing for “Kid Cardinal One”
When: Saturday, Sept. 28, 3 to 5 p.m.
Where: Blackstone Valley Visitors Center, 175 Main St., Pawtucket
Who: Alan Hassenfeld, Al Verrecchia, G. Wayne Miller
Admission: Free and accessible to the public
WATCH a video of the barrage party, with Hassenfeld, Verrecchia and Miller talking toys, bequest and history.
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