PAWTUCKET — As word of Hasbro CEO and chairman Brian D. Goldner’s passing spread internationally Wednesday, reaching foreign countries where the Rhode Island-based firm’s products and entertainment properties are widely available, remembrances of the 58-year-old and condolences for his family continued.
“A great leader surrounds himself with great people who become a great team. Brian created this and our team will continue his legacy of greatness. I have lost the son I never had,” former Hasbro chief Alan G. Hassenfeld, a member of the company’s founding family, told The Journal.
Said Alfred J. Verrecchia, another former Hasbro chairman and CEO: “Brian was an inspirational leader who understood the value of Hasbro’s brands better than anyone and how they would entertain and engage the consumer. He along with Stephen Hassenfeld are the two CEOs that changed the trajectory of Hasbro.”
Stephen D. Hassenfeld, Alan’s brother, died of AIDS in 1989 after propelling a small company once best known for its Mr. Potato Head and G.I. Joe lines into a Fortune 500 powerhouse and Wall Street favorite. Stephen was the second of three Hasbro heads during the last four decades to die while in office: Merrill Hassenfeld, Stephen and Alan’s father and the man who hired a young Verrecchia, died of a heart attack in 1979, and Goldner died Tuesday of cancer.
“This is a great loss,” U.S. Sen Jack Reed said. “Brian was a dynamic business leader, a difference-maker, and a pillar of the community. We are deeply saddened by his loss and our hearts go out to his family.”
Said Gov. Dan McKee: “Brian Goldner was a bold thinker, an innovator, and a remarkable CEO whose decades of passionate commitment to Hasbro led the company to global success. Brian was also someone who always stepped up for our community and whose work brought smiles to the faces of so many children. His leadership, work ethic, generosity and kindness will not be forgotten, and he will be deeply missed by all. Our hearts go out to the Goldner family and the entire Hasbro team during this difficult time.”
Goldner was a member of the ViacomCBS board of directors. President and CEO Bob Bakish credited Goldner with Hasbro’s expanded growth into online gaming and TV and film, saying “Brian uniquely understood the powerful connection between play and entertainment, transforming Hasbro from its traditional roots in toys and games into a global leader in multi-platform content and experiences … His passion for delighting consumers also shone through in his long-time partnership with Paramount Pictures that helped build Transformers into an iconic film franchise.”
An internet search showed that most major U.S. media outlets and industry and business publications covered Goldner’s death. Overseas coverage was seen in The Indian Express, a newspaper that circulates in India; the Regina Leader-Post, in Saskatchewan, Canada; Der Spiegel, in Hamburg Germany; The Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet; Detik.com, in Jakarta, Indonesia; and the Greek paper Imersia, among other foreign publications.
Originally called Hassenfeld brothers, Hasbro was founded in 1917 in Providence by Alan and Stephen Hassenfeld’s grandfather and great uncle, Henry and Hillel Hassenfeld, who immigrated to America from Europe to escape persecution of Jews. They were penniless teenage brothers when they arrived, in 1903.
A native of Huntington, New York, Goldner came to the company by a different route. Son of an electrical engineer and a teacher, he was raised in a family that valued giving back: as an adult, Goldner still had a newspaper clipping of himself at the age of 6 selling lemonade and candy to raise money for UNICEF. It was evidence of a philosophy that decades later would result in Hasbro’s record of corporate social responsibility during the CEO’s tenure.
Goldner majored in government at Dartmouth College, and after graduating took jobs in advertising in Chicago and Los Angeles, home of Hollywood. He joined Hasbro as president of the U.S. Toys division in 2000, coming to Rhode Island from Bandai North America. In 2008, he succeeded Verrecchia, who in turn had succeeded Alan Hassenfeld, who followed after Stephen, who took the corner office when Merrill died.
For now, Hasbro is being led by interim CEO Rich Soddart, a member of Hasbro’s board of directors. Presumably, a search will be mounted for Goldner’s successor but there is no word of that yet.
Similarly, there has been no recent word regarding the possibility that Hasbro could move its headquarters out of Pawtucket to another city in Rhode Island or out of state. Hasbro three years ago acknowledged it was “evaluating several options” for its headquarters.
Hasbro’s spokeswoman at the time, Julie Collins Duffy, said in December 2018 “we are in the process of evaluating several options for contemporizing our corporate headquarters, including finding a new corporate campus in the vicinity of our current headquarters. We are committed to delivering a fully-updated, connected and flexible workspace for all of our employees, and want to find the right solution that will ultimately create the best corporate headquarters for Hasbro into the future.”
A request for an update to the office of Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien was not immediately returned on Wednesday.
State Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor wrote to The Journal: “Brian Goldner was a splendid leader who propelled Hasbro’s transformation from a toy and game company into a truly significant and dynamic global entertainment enterprise. Brian ably and successfully guided the company through many difficult periods — including economic downturns, brick-and-mortar retail closures, and the COVID crisis. Brian’s civic contributions were highly impactful — including his service as the founding chair of the Partnership for Rhode Island as well as his powerful advocacy regarding the opioid crisis…. we will miss him greatly.”
Goldner leaves his wife, Barbara, and their daughter, Brooke. The Goldners lost their son, Brandon, to an accidental opioid overdose in 2015, a tragedy that drew them into overdose awareness campaigns and prompted them to build the downtown Providence children’s playground, Brandon’s Beach.
Details of Goldner’s funeral were still being arranged on Wednesday.
Read More: ‘team will continue his legacy of greatness’