Former CEO, Mattel
Jill Barad joined Mattel in 1981 as an employee in the company’s novelty section; shortly thereafter she began to rise through the ranks and was promoted to director of the Barbie brand. She used her marketing ability and eye for consumer trends to reestablish the Barbie doll as an American icon and grow the business to nearly $2 billion worldwide at that time.
Barad rapidly climbed the Mattel corporate ladder, holding the positions of executive vice president of marketing and product development, then president and chief operating officer, and finally chairman and chief executive officer … becoming one of four women to hold the helm of a Fortune 500 company in the late 1990s. Business publications of the time reported that Barad had “broken through the corporate ‘glass ceiling’ and inspired other businesswomen to overcome obstacles to success in a male-dominated corporate climate.”
Through mergers, acquisitions, and the use of high-level marketing skills, Barad ushered in a period of growth and prosperity for Mattel. The “American Girl” business, which she acquired in 1998, has grown to be one of the major brands of Mattel and within the industry. Her skills were heralded by a former colleague who said, “she was a great leader with fantastic style and grace” and “one of the best executives the industry has ever seen” when it came to identifying great products and marketing campaigns.
Barad is also known for her philanthropic leadership. During her tenure, Mattel committed $25 million to name one of the country’s pre-eminent children’s hospitals, today known as Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA.
President and Sole Owner, PLAYMOBIL/geobra Brandstätter GmbH & Co. KG
Horst Brandstätter is the sole owner and president of geobra Brandsätter GmbH & Co. KG and head of Brandstätter Holding, based in Bavaria, Germany. Brandstätter is better known as the manufacturer of PLAYMOBIL toys. The Franconian entrepreneur, great-grandson of the company’s founder Andreas Brandstätter, joined the family enterprise in 1952 and has dedicated 61 years to the toy industry so far.
As a trained mold maker, the young, forward-thinking manager modernized production facilities and transitioned production material for the toy assortment from tin to plastics. In 1958, the company experienced a huge sales success by first introducing the U.S. “hula hoop” trend into the European market. That year, Brandstätter also made one of his most important managing decisions and hired Hans Beck as his first model maker.
It was in the early 1970s that Brandstätter asked Beck to think of a new play system. He believed that a completely new play idea with vehicles and figures would offer more play value for children and also make it more difficult for competitors to copy his products. In view of the upcoming oil crisis, the innovative manager presented Beck’s creations, featuring the 2¾ inch PLAYMOBIL figurine, to the trade during Nuremberg Toy Fair 1974. With cleverness and persistency, he urged buyers to order PLAYMOBIL, which was incomparable to anything else in the market. Its new concept of creative role play won over kids and parents and led to outstanding economic growth. The 1974 Toy Fair changed children’s rooms worldwide.
Today, the company employs more than 3,700 people, and 2.6 billion PLAYMOBIL figures have been manufactured since 1974. The worldwide PLAYMOBIL turnover reached a record level of 531 million Euro in 2012. An export share of 70% clearly speaks for the international focus, which is supported by 12 PLAYMOBIL subsidiaries around the world.
As a wish for his 80th birthday on June 27, 2013, Brandstätter states: “I would wish to be able to come to the office another five years and that PLAYMOBIL will continue to make children happy for a lot more years.” What could express an entire life’s dedication to the toy industry more?
Chairman & CEO, Playmates Toys Inc.
Thomas Chan, along with his father, founded Playmates Toys in 1966. In 1970 he became responsible for sales and was instrumental in developing the group’s global sales and marketing network. Since 1979, he has been actively involved in all aspects of Playmates Toys operations. His decision to take on the promotional toy business in 1985 led to the evolution of Playmates Toys from a manufacturing entity into a pure toy development and marketing group. Playmates Toys’ high level of productivity is attributable to his guiding management principles of creativity, flexibility and simplicity. Chan was appointed Chairman in 1997. Playmates Toys has become the most successful toy company operating out of Hong Kong/China.
His focus on delivering incredible value and play has had a true long-term, positive impact on the toy industry.
Chan was instrumental in launching one of the biggest phenomenons in the history of the toy industry – the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT)”. Playmates Toys funded the production of the original TMNT TV mini-series, which lead to the single biggest year of sales (1990) ever achieved by an action figure line. Over the past 25 years, he has lead Playmates and the toy industry to multiple brand successes – multiple iterations of TMNT, Star Trek, Simpsons and Space Jam action figures, the Cricket doll and Amazing Interactive Dolls lines, Waterbabies, Baby So Beautiful dolls, Nano & Reel Fishing electronics, and many more.
Founder, K’NEX Brands
Joel Glickman was 50 years old in 1990 when inspiration struck. While tinkering with cocktail straws at a wedding Joel envisioned the possibilities of a construction toy built around the concept of rods and connectors to hold them together.
By the time his idea (now called K’NEX) hit the toy market in late 1992 Joel had spent two years refining the concept, only to have it rejected by the major toy companies. Against all odds he forged ahead, producing the plastic toys at his family’s injection molding company, The Rodon Group, in Hatfield, PA.
In the 20 years that have followed, the family-owned and operated K’NEX has grown to become one of the world’s leading integrated construction systems for children thanks to Joel’s leadership. The line includes sets with not only rods and connectors but also bricks, personality parts and motors for movement, and is sold by retailers worldwide.
K’NEX’s focus on Building Worlds Kids Love™ has resulted in partnerships with successful licensees’ such as Angry Birds, Sesame Street, NASCAR, Monster Jam and Mario Kart Wii-licensed K’NEX building sets along with K’NEX branded building sets for kids ages 2 – 12.
Committed to manufacturing in the United States at a time when most toys are made overseas, K’NEX has become America’s building toy company with more than 90% of its parts manufactured domestically at The Rodon Group’s eco-friendly production facility.
Joel’s idea for a new kind of building toy has resulted in more than just a fun and educational product for children — through K’NEX, Joel has supported many worthy charities, including Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the United Way, Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America and The NASCAR Foundation.
2012 marks the 20th anniversary of K’NEX, and what better way to celebrate than to honor Joel Glickman, who is a constant reminder that with independence, ingenuity, hard work and a willingness to take risks, all things are possible!
Bruce Raiffe, President, Gund, division of Enesco LLC.
Bruce is currently president of GUND, a division of Enesco, LLC.
GUND produces soft toys for the child in all of us: infants and children of all ages, as well as for adults and collectors. GUND, led by Bruce Raiffe, has been a true pioneer in the industry. Under his leadership GUND is a leader in innovation, as well as safety standards and manufacturing processes for the toy industry. GUND has always been committed to product safety. As an example, the company set an important industry standard by devising a way to attach eyes securely to plush animals, preventing them from being pulled out by small children. The American Brand Council named this 115-year-old brand one of the most trusted brands in the U.S. and Bruce is dedicated to preserving that standing.
Bruce is both passionate and knowledgeable about the toy industry. Bruce is the third generation of his family to run the GUND company, working as a teenager with his grandfather who taught him the basics of creating soft toys, and learned all aspects of this toy business working through several positions at GUND in sales, marketing, and finance before taking the helm as president in 1993. Bruce has a tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience in the plush toy industry. Through his knowledge and experience, he has been instrumental in expanding the GUND name and product line into international markets and also growing GUND’s activities in the world of licensing.
On the personal side, Bruce truly sets a good example for the toy industry by devoting a portion of his free time to community activities. Through his efforts over many years, GUND has distributed thousands of toys each year to children in need, both in the local community and across the nation. He is past Chairman of the Board of the Cerebral Palsy Association of Middlesex County, and past board member of NJ Public Broadcasting.
JACK FRIEDMAN (1939-2010)
Former Chairman, CEO and Co-Founder, JAKKS Pacific
Prior titles included Founder of THQ Inc. and Co-Founder of LJN Toys
Jack Friedman was a pioneer in the toy, licensing and video game industries who made his mark over his 50-year career with some of the most iconic playthings of our time.
Jack died on May 3, 2010 at the age of 70.
Friedman co-founded JAKKS Pacific in January 1995 and served as its chairman and chief executive officer through March 31, 2010. He was a visionary leader who guided JAKKS with wisdom and keen judgment, and thanks in large part to his leadership, JAKKS has grown into a top 5 U.S. publicly-traded, diversified toy company. Before JAKKS, he led LJN Toys, guiding the company into licensed products based on TV shows – a new frontier for toy companies in the 1970s. At LJN, he launched toys for the movie E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, as well as dolls based on Michael Jackson and Brooke Shields. After the sale of LJN to MCA in 1985, Jack went on to form video game company THQ, Inc. in 1989 and and served as its CEO until 1995.
Under Friedman’s leadership, JAKKS Pacific grew its portfolio to more than 80% licensed products, including Cabbage Patch Kids, Hello Kitty, Pokémon, Care Bears, Barney, Sesame Street, Smurfs, Atari, Star Wars, Marvel characters, Disney Princess, Disney Fairies, Toy Story, Cars, Club Penguin and Pirates of the Caribbean, SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, Blue’s Clues, SLIME! and more. Friedman also worked to diversify JAKKS’ portfolio, which now includes Action Figures, Electronics, Dolls, Dress-Up, Role Play, Halloween Costumes, Kids Furniture, Vehicles, Plush, Seasonal Products, Infant/Pre-School Toys, Ride-On Vehicles, Wagons, Inflatable Environments and many more.
Friedman was also a generous philanthropist and supporter of the JAKKS Cares program, which has benefited organizations such as The Toy Industry Foundation, Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, Special Olympics, Feed the Children, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Marine Toys for Tots and more. JAKKS Cares has donated more than $50 million worth of toys and school supplies to children around the world, with a goal of helping under-privileged children Smile, Play and Succeed.
Toys were Jack Friedman’s passion. His legacy will live on in the playthings he created for millions of children.
Harvey Greenfield (-2009)
Chairman of the Board, Duncan
Harvey Greenfield, former Chairman of the Board of Commonwealth Toy & Novelty Co., Inc., passed away suddenly in December 2009. His father, Murray Greenfield, started the company in 1934; Harvey took over in 1956 and was responsible for Commonwealth becoming one of the oldest and largest stuffed toy companies in the world. The company had products in the generic and licensed plush toy categories (notably with the creation of Lots-A-Leggggggs plush toy) as well as the premium and promotions business with retailers worldwide.
Harvey was a beloved boss who always took the time to greet and say hello to each member of his staff when he walked into the office. He also made an effort to know each employee regardless of their position within the company and would inquire about their families and personal interests. The most important thing in his life was his family, and the word “family” also included his Commonwealth family. In addition, he was an icon who was well known, respected and loved throughout the toy industry. He was extremely generous and has supported and made donations to many charitable organizations throughout the years.
ARTHUR “SPUD” MELIN & RICHARD KNERR (-2002,
Co-Founders, Wham-O Toy
Arthur “Spud” Melin and Richard Knerr were inventors, pioneers, risk takers, game changers, and “the gurus of blockbuster fads.”
The two lifelong friends started Wham-O in 1948 in South Pasadena, California, and ran the company together for more than 30 years. At a time when most of the industry was east of the Mississippi, Spud and Rich helped to pioneer a move to the west. Their first products were novelty items made in the garage of Knerr’s parents and sold via mail order in the Wall Street Journal; their company was named after the sound produced by their first product, a slingshot.
Over the next three decades they introduced some of the most iconic toys of the 20th century, including the Frisbee, Limbo Stick, Silly String, Super Ball, Slip n’ Slide and the Hacky Sack, among others. They were always open to original and often strange ideas. They experimented with toys themselves and would try out products directly with potential buyers. In 1958, they promoted the Hula Hoop on Southern California playgrounds where they would do demonstrations and give away hoops to get the children to learn and play. Their perseverance turned the toy hoops into the greatest fad the country has ever seen – 25 million were sold in four months!
Spud and Rich were fun first, business second. They were each in the vanguard of TV advertising, plastic manufacturing and promotional tie-ins. More importantly, their toys have stood the test of time. Toys like the Hula Hoop and Frisbee continue to not only delight children but also appeal to new audiences nearly 60 years later. Spud and Rich’s story was featured in Tim Walsh’s book, Wham-O Superbook, and their incredible toys have appeared in more than 100 movies in the past 50 years.
In addition to their contributions to the world of toys and play, Spud and Richard were great role models in their local communities and in the toy industry overall.
Spud died in 2002 at the age of 77; Richard passed away in 2008 at the age of 82.