Toy Wars

The Epic Struggle Between G.I. Joe, Barbie and the Companies That Make Them

Random House/Times Books/February 1998 (hardcover), and Adams/January 1999 (paperback).

Forget Disney. This is the real toy story, an unprecedented behind-the-scenes journey through a world of power, ego and multi-million-dollar Hollywood deals -- the world of Batman, Barbie, Mr. Potato Head, Star Wars and G.I. Joe -- a world where the whims of children make millionaires and topple kings, sometimes overnight. A world where a handful of individuals and corporations have a powerful, and growing, impact on the world's children... of all ages.

It is also the story of a most unusual, and compelling, family and man.

Alan Hassenfeld never intended to run the largest toy company on earth. A creative writing major and child of the '60s who wanted to be an author, he was content to remain in the shadow of his older brother, Stephen, a business genius, as the family firm exploded into a Fortune 500 powerhouse. And then Stephen died suddenly, of complications of AIDS, a disease he'd kept secret even from his family. Keeping vigil by Stephen's casket the night before his funeral, Alan decided to follow him as chairman and CEO of Hasbro.

Toy Wars is about Alan's struggle to succeed -- as captain of industry, and moral being. A tale of a gentle, generous and idealistic man who still embraces the '60s belief that the world can be a better place -- but who must answer to Wall Street, with its merciless pressure on the bottom line.

Toys Wars is also an inside look at the colorful characters in Hassenfeld's orbit: Jurassic Park director Steven Spielberg; Mighty Morphin Power Rangers' creator Haim Saban; Jill Barad, the Mattel CEO that People magazine named one of the World's 50 Most Beautiful People, and the second highest paid woman in corporate America; Al Verrecchia, the faithful finance man whose ambition was to run Hasbro for Alan; Larry Bernstein, arguably the best toy salesman ever and without doubt one of the funniest; and, a presence throughout, long after his death, Stephen Hassenfeld, an enigmatic man whose revolutionary ideas transformed the toy industry and his family forever.

Granted unusual access inside a Fortune 500 firm, I spent nearly five years at Hasbro, witnessing a corporate restructuring, a defense against a takeover attempt by arch-rival Mattel, collapse of a $45-million virtual reality game, and the complete makeover of G.I. Joe, Hasbro's icon and the most famous boys' toy of all time. Written (I hope) like a page-turning novel, Toy Wars is a true tale of our times.


 

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