Miller, G. Wayne. “Kid Number One: Alan Hassenfeld and Hasbro”, Stillwater River Publications, 2019.
“Heart, Soul and Business”
Alan Hassenfeld’s grandfather and great-uncle escaped religious persecution in Eastern Europe and came to America in 1903. They had no money and began selling rags New York City streets but eventually built the world’s largest toy company, Hasbro. Merrill, Alan’s father, Merrill, brought Mr. Potato Head and G.I. Joe to the world and his only brother, Stephen, was able to turn Hasbro into a Fortune 500 company and became Hollywood player. Alan, a free spirit, wanted to write novels, date beautiful women and travel. He had never wanted to steer the family business and no one ever thought that he could or even would. That all changed when Stephen died from AIDS making Alan to become chairman and CEO. He surprised everyone by taking Hasbro to greater success but it was not all rosy. He almost lost the company due to several bad decisions. As a result, he gave his long-time lieutenant Al Verrecchia command and began a plan whereby he would leave his corporate position. Verrecchia was able to save the company, and and then retired, leaving Hasbro to the current CEO and chairman Brian Goldner, a highly esteemed and respected man.
Hassenfeld who became enormously wealthy went to work expanding the long family tradition of Tikkun Olam – “repairing the world”. This was a project begun by his grandfather and great-uncle who were so grateful to have survived, helped immigrants and needy American citizens.
Hassenfeld’s philanthropy has aided in the building of two children’s hospitals, established numerous educational and health programs, trained young doctors and scientists, resettled refugees, promoted peace in the Mideast and more. He has been a highly visible advocate for national political and ethics reform while dealing with personal threats and the anger of crooked politicians.
G. Wayne Miller has combined family and corporate history in his book and he shares the personal family story which is at the center of Hasbro’s corporate identity. Beginning with the massacre of Jews in 1903 Poland and moving forward to today, we learn what people of great wealth can do when they put self aside. Kid Number One is more than the history of a family; it is also a history of American toys. It is more than about the toys from Hasbro but also Mattel’s classic brands including Barbie and from lesser-known toys by companies. Miller had unprecedented access inside the $5-billion toy and family-entertainment company and one of America’s leading if largely unknown philanthropies.
Prepare to clear your day before you start reading this because it is difficult to stop. Luckily for me that I was snowed in and the day passed very quickly as I flipped pages.
This is a special treat for readers who like their hard-edged business yet with a bit of gossip about our favorite toys. It is personally meaningful for me because I am involved in Tikkun Olam work and it is something I always enjoying reading about.