Hasbro, Inc. (an abbreviation of its original name, Hassenfeld Brothers) is an American multinational conglomerate with toy, board game, and media assets, headquartered in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Hasbro owns the trademarks and products of Kenner, Parker Brothers, and Milton Bradley, among others. Hasbro is incorporated in Rhode Island, and as of August 2020 over 80% of its shares were held by large financial institutions.
Among its products are Transformers, G.I. Joe, Power Rangers, Rom, Micronauts, M.A.S.K, Monopoly, Furby, Nerf, Twister, and My Little Pony. The Hasbro brand also spawned TV shows to promote its products, such as Family Game Night on the Discovery Family network, a joint venture with Discovery, Inc. As of 2019, it is also the parent company of mass media and entertainment company Entertainment One.
Three brothers, Nathan Abrams, Forward Herman, Hillel, and Henry Hassenfeld founded Hassenfeld Brothers in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1923, a company selling textile remnants. Over the next two decades, the company expanded to produce pencil cases and school supplies. In 1926, Hassenfeld Brothers was incorporated; Hillel left for another textile business while Henry took charge of the corporation. They began making their own pencils when their pencil supplier began making pencil cases as well.
Hassenfeld Brothers produced modeling clay and then doctor and nurse kits as their first toys, and they became primarily a toy company by 1942. Hillel died in 1943 and Henry Hassenfeld became CEO, while his son Merrill became president. The company entered the plastic fields during World War II to support its toy line. Hassenfeld Brothers' first toy hit was , which the company purchased from George Lerner in 1952. In 1954, the company became a Disney major licensee.
In 1960, Henry died and Merrill took over the parent company, and his older brother Harold ran the pencil-making business of Empire Pencil. Hassenfeld Brothers expanded to Canada with Hassenfeld Brothers (Canada) Ltd. in 1961. The company was approached in 1963 to license a toy based on The Lieutenant, which they turned down because they did not want to be tied to a possibly short-lived television series. Instead, Hassenfeld Brothers produced the G.I. Joe toy in 1964 which they termed an "action figure" in order to market it to boys who wouldn't want to play with dolls. In 1964 and 1965, G.I. Joe accounted for two-thirds of Hassenfeld's sales.
The company had previously sold toys under the Hasbro trade name, and it shortened its name to Hasbro Industries in 1968 and sold a minor stake in the corporation to the public. The unpopular Vietnam War was at its height in 1969, so Hasbro redesigned GI Joe to be less militaristic and more adventure oriented. Its promotional efforts included the catchphrase "Boy Oh Boy! It's A Hasbro Toy!" in television commercials and print ads. Also in 1969, Hasbro bought Burt Claster Enterprises which produced "Romper Room" and had just begun a Romper Room toy line. A month-long Teamsters strike and Far Eastern supplier troubles caused the company to post a $1 million loss for the year.
In 1970, Hasbro began a plan of diversification and opened the Romper Room Nursery School franchise chain to cash in on President Richard M. Nixon's Family Assistance Plan which subsidized day care for working mothers. By 1975, the company had ended the nursery chain. Hasbro also entered the cookware field with the Galloping Gourmet line based on a television cooking show.
Two new 1970s toys were public relations disasters. One of the toys was named Javelin Darts (Lawn Darts) which were similar to the ancient Roman plumbata. On December 19, 1988, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned lawn darts from sale in the United States due to their hazards as a flying projectile with a sharp metal point causing multiple deaths. The other toy was named The Hypo-Squirt, a hypodermic needle-shaped water gun tagged by the press as a "junior junkie" kit. Both were recalled. Romper Room and its toy line had continued success, although Action for Children's Television citizens group considered the program to be an advertising channel for toys.
Merrill Hassenfeld took over as CEO in 1974, and his son Stephen D. Hassenfeld became president. The company became profitable once again but had mixed results due to cash flow problems from increasing the number of toys in the line to offset G.I. Joe's declining sales. Hasbro ended the G.I. Joe line in 1975 because of the rising prices of plastic and crude oil. In 1977, Hasbro's losses were $2.5 million, and the company held a large debt load. That same year, Hasbro acquired licensing rights to Peanuts cartoon characters. With the financial situation poor, Hasbro's bankers made the company temporarily stop dividend payments in early 1979. The toy division's losses increased Harold Hassenfeld's resentment regarding the company's treatment of the Empire Pencil subsidiary as Empire received lower levels of capital spending relative to profits than did the toy division.
With Merrill's death in 1979, Harold did not recognize Stephen's authority as the successor to the chairman and CEO position. As a solution, Hasbro spun off Empire Pencil in 1980, which was the nation's largest pencil maker, with Harold trading his Hasbro shares for those of Empire. Stephen then became both the CEO and chairman of the board. Between 1978 and 1981, Stephen reduced the Hasbro product line by one-third and its new products by one-half. Hasbro focused on simple, low cost, longer life-cycle toys like Mr. Potato Head. Hasbro thus stayed out of the electronic games field which went bust in the early 1980s.
In 1982, Hasbro revived its G.I. Joe line with the help of Marvel Comics, as an anti-terrorist commando based on current events. The company launched the successful Transformers toy line along with a children's animated TV series two years later. With the toys and TV series being popular, Stephen Hassenfeld posed with the toys for a People magazine cover photo.
In 1982, Hasbro produced the successful toy franchise My Little Pony. In 1983, they purchased GLENCO Infant Items, a manufacturer of infant products and the world's largest bib producer, and Knickerbocker Toy Company, a struggling Warner Communications subsidiary. Hasbro paid 37% of its stock to Warner, which was paid into Hasbro's executive-controlled voting trust, and also received a cash infusion. In 1984, Alan G. Hassenfeld took over as president from his brother Stephen, who continued as CEO and chairman. That same year, the company was the nation's sixth best-selling toymaker, and then acquired the Milton Bradley Company, which was the nation's fifth best-selling toymaker. This brought The Game of Life, Twister, Easy Money, and Playskool into the Hasbro fold and transformed Hasbro into Hasbro Bradley. Stephen Hassenfeld became the merged company's president and CEO, with Milton Bradley chief James Shea Jr. taking the chairman position. However, the executives clashed and Shea left after a few months, and Stephen and Alan returned to their previous positions.
In 1985, the company changed its name again to just Hasbro, Inc. The Jumpstarters toys were the subject of a lawsuit in 1985 when Hasbro sued a toy manufacturer for selling toys based on their Transformers design. Hasbro won the suit.
In the mid-1980s, Hasbro moved past Mattel to become the world's largest toy company. Hasbro then moved to outsell Mattel's Barbie in the fashion doll market with the 1986 introduction of Jem, a record producer/rock musician dual identity fashion doll. Jem initially posted strong sales but plummeted and was withdrawn from the market in 1987. Hasbro followed up in 1988 with Maxie, a Barbie-sized blonde doll, so that Barbie clothing and accessories would fit. Maxie lasted until 1990.
Under Alan's initiative in the late 1980s, Hasbro moved to increase international sales by taking toys overseas that had failed in the US market and selling them for as much as four times the original price. This increased international sales from $268 million in 1985 to $433 million in 1988.
In 1988, Hasbro purchased part of Coleco Industries' indoor and outdoor children's furniture and ride-on toy product lines for $21 million including two just closed manufacturing plants in Amsterdam, N.Y. In July 1989, Hasbro acquired bankrupt Coleco for $85 million. Stephen Hassenfeld died later that year with the company having gone from sales of $104 million in the year he took control to 1989 sales of over $1.4 billion.
Alan succeeded Stephen as chairman and CEO. In 1991, Hasbro purchased Tonka Corp. for $486 million, along with its units Parker Brothers, the maker of Monopoly, and Kenner Products. Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers were merged into one division. Alan moved to expand Hasbro overseas with new units in Greece, Hungary, and Mexico.
Alan saw the Far East as an important market to expand. In 1992, Hasbro purchased Nomura Toys Ltd. in Japan, and majority ownership of Palmyra, a Southeast Asian toy distributor. These increased the proportion of international sales from 22% in 1985 to 45% ($1.28 billion) in 1995. In 1993, Hasbro lost its bid for J. W. Spear & Sons, a U.K.-based game maker, to Mattel.
In the US, Hasbro's growth since 1980 were from acquisitions and the leveraging of the new assets. New product development was not as successful except for movie and TV tie-in product lines with Jurassic Park and Barney. Thus, US sales were stagnant in the early 1990s, falling from 1993 to 1995. To turn domestic performance around in 1994, Hasbro merged the Hasbro Toy, Playskool, Playskool Baby, Kenner, and Kid Dimension units into the Hasbro Toy Group. Meanwhile, Mattel purchased Fisher-Price and retook the top spot in the toy industry.
Hasbro Interactive was started in 1995 and released the Monopoly game on CD-ROM. Mattel also proposed a merger that year, but was turned down by the Hasbro board in 1996 due to antitrust issues and Justice Department investigation into exclusionary policies between toy manufacturers and toy retailers, particularly Toys "R" Us.
In 1998, Hasbro bought Avalon Hill for $6 million and Galoob for $220 million. In 1999 Wizards of the Coast was bought in a deal worth $325million. Wizards of the Coast is now a subsidiary of Hasbro and has Avalon Hill as its division. In 2001 money-losing Hasbro Interactive was sold to Infogrames, a French software concern, for $100million.
The year of his promotion to CEO of Hasbro, Goldner became the first person not from the founding Hassenfeld family to hold the position.
In 2009, Hasbro Studios was formed for TV development, production and distribution. In December 2012, Hasbro transferred all entertainment divisions to Hasbro Studios, including their Los Angeles-based film group, and Cake Mix Studio, the company's Rhode Island-based producer of commercials and short form content.
In February 2018, Saban Brands appointed Hasbro as the global master toy licensee for Power Rangers with a future option to purchase the franchise. On May 1, 2018, Hasbro agreed to purchase Power Rangers and other entertainment assets from Saban Brands for US$522 million in cash and stock with the licensing fee already paid with credit.
Hasbro granted Kingsmen Creatives a license to build a chain of NERF Action Xperience family entertainment centers, with the first to be opened in Singapore in fall/winter 2019.
- Hasbro Interactive
- Larami (name is now retired and part of the Nerf brand)
- Milton Bradley
- Parker Brothers
Toys and games
In 1995, Hasbro began a short-lived video game development and publishing venture called Hasbro Interactive, but disbanded it in 2001 when it was bought by the now defunct Infogrames. Now Hasbro develops video games based on its brands through third-party developers and licensing strategies, notably with major American companies such as Activision, Electronic Arts, and THQ. Following the rise of smartphones and tablet PCs in the 2010s, as well as major video gaming publishers cutting back on releasing games based on licensed IPs for various reasons, such as economic slumps, several of Hasbro's brands were licensed towards mobile game developers such as Gameloft, releasing their games under the label Hasbro Gaming.
Criticism and controversy
In 2007, a workers' rights group investigated several of Hasbro's Chinese suppliers and found that, in one instance, a toy factory in China's Guangxi Province had hired 1000 junior high school students. The same group discovered other widespread labor violations, including unsafe working conditions, mandatory overtime, verbal abuse and sexual harassment of employees. Hasbro issued a statement, saying that it would "act swiftly and decisively in making any necessary changes" and had "increased the intensity of [its] ongoing safety review efforts." Critics pointed out that Hasbro had no official regulatory control of these factories. Hasbro responded by hiring independent auditors. These auditors make unannounced visits to the East Asian subcontractors. Reports later emerged that the factory managers have been coached in how to fool the auditors."U.S. Group Accuses Chinese Toy Factories of Labor Abuses" from The New York Times