Hasbro Enters Holiday Season With CEO on Health Leave

Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner is on leave and the company is looking for a replacement. The move comes as Hasbro struggles to grow sales, which were down 1% in Q3 2018.

Hasbro has announced that CEO Brian Goldner is taking a leave of absence for the holidays.

Hasbro Inc.’s HAS -1.62 percent sudden leadership transition this week has left the toy maker in the hands of lieutenants to negotiate sales tactics and supply-chain problems at a crucial time of year.

Late Sunday, the company that makes Nerf blasters and Monopoly board games said that Chief Executive Brian Goldner, 58, had taken a medical leave of absence. Mr. Goldner, the company’s CEO since 2008, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014 and had further treatment the following year. Throughout his medical treatments, he continued to do his executive responsibilities, even during the epidemic, when he mainly worked remotely.

Mr. Goldner said in a letter to employees on Sunday, “At this time, I need to concentrate on my health.”

Rich Stoddart, a longstanding board member and former CEO of advertising powerhouse Leo Burnett Worldwide, was appointed temporary CEO by the firm. Mr. Stoddart, 58, has some supply-chain expertise from his stint as the CEO of Innerworkings Inc., a marketing firm. He and Mr. Goldner are also college buddies, having met as students at Dartmouth College in the early 1980s.

Mr. Goldner wrote, “We couldn’t ask for a finer steward, and I’m confident you’ll all love working with him.”

Brian Goldner, the CEO of Hasbro, in 2018.

Presley Ann/Getty Images/Presley Ann/Getty Images/Presley Ann/Getty Images/Pre

Hasbro is now focusing on the Christmas season, which accounts for about half of the toy industry’s annual retail sales. Much of the planning and preparation for the peak selling season has already taken place, with retailer toy orders being completed for online and in-store sales.

Manufacturing slowdowns and congestion at ports have caused some toy shipments to be delayed this year, adding to the supply-chain difficulties. To guarantee that it has adequate merchandise, Hasbro has started shipping out of additional ports in Asia and into more places in the United States.

“We think we’ll have all the goods for the holidays,” Mr. Goldner said at an industry gathering last month. “We’d like a bit more product in some categories, but we’ll have the product for the holidays.”

Hasbro has recruited new executives to its management team in recent years, including Chief Commercial Officer Michael Hogg and Chief Operating Officer Eric Nyman, who will be tasked with carrying out the Christmas plans.

Stephanie Wissink, a Jefferies Group analyst, said the leadership move hasn’t altered her mind about Hasbro’s prospects for the next year. Mr. Goldner’s decision to take a medical leave, she said in a research note, is “both a demonstration of his steadfast dedication to getting well and also his bravery to do so without jeopardizing, in any way, Hasbro’s day-to-day operations or market speculation linked to his health.”

As continuing supply chain problems imperil the Christmas shopping season, satellite pictures reveal the magnitude of the backlog at ports in California. Jennifer Smith of the Wall Street Journal outlines what’s driving the cargo and ship delays. Planet Labs Inc. photo

Mr. Goldner joined Hasbro in 2000 from Bandai America Inc., a toy manufacturer, and climbed through the ranks to become CEO in 2008.

Mr. Goldner has moved Hasbro’s emphasis away from manufacturing toys and toward developing brands via storytelling and entertainment, which has boosted sales of Hasbro’s own brands and licensed goods so far. It has included a stronger push into filmmaking, culminating in the $4 billion purchase of Entertainment One Ltd. in 2019, which produces television programs and films as well as owning children’s brands such as Peppa Pig.

Hasbro just launched a new My Little Pony film on Netflix and is developing films for other franchises such as Dungeons & Dragons and Transformers.

Other toy businesses have taken note of the approach, including Mattel Inc., which is bolstering its brands like Barbie and Hot Wheels with movies and streaming television programs under the leadership of Ynon Kreiz.

Paul Ziobro can be reached at [email protected]

Amplifications and corrections Hasbro is developing films for other franchises such as Dungeons & Dragons and Transformers. Dungeons & Dragons was erroneously stated in a previous version of this page. (Correction dated Oct. 11)

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