Chairman: John Gessert, President/Chief Executive Officer, American
Plastic Toys, Inc.
Mr. John Gessert currently serves as
president and chief executive officer of American Plastics Toys,
Inc. He joined the organization in 1984 in sales and
operations and, after holding regional sales manager positions, became
national sales manager in 1991. He served as executive vice
president from 1998 to 2003 when he was named as president and
Gessert and his wife, Susan, reside in Michigan, with their four
children, Ellen, Jack, Emma and Julia. Mr. Gessert earned his
Bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and his MBA from Wayne
Richard Barry, Executive Vice President, Chief Merchandising Officer, Toys“R”Us, Inc.
As Executive Vice President, Chief Merchandising Officer, Toys“R”Us, Inc., Richard Barry leads all merchandising initiatives for the company’s U.S. operations, including Toys“R”Us and Babies“R”Us stores nationwide and the legendary FAO Schwarz flagship store in New York City, as well as the company’s dedicated e-commerce sites. In this role, Mr. Barry oversees a team of merchants in identifying and monitoring worldwide product trends and innovations to advance the company’s position as THE toy and juvenile products authority. In addition, he is responsible for driving strategic initiatives within the company’s Marketing and e-commerce groups, including mobile platforms and omnichannel programs.
Mr. Barry plays a leadership role in driving collaboration, providing insights and leveraging industry-wide relationships to benefit the company’s merchant teams around the world in building differentiated product assortments. In addition, he works to ensure the company offers a consistently strong in-stock position on the hottest products and negotiates first-to-market opportunities on new item introductions.
During his nearly 27-year tenure at Toys“R”Us, which spans across the U.S. and the U.K., he has accumulated broad experience in all aspects of sales, operations and merchandising, through roles of increasing seniority. Mr. Barry joined Toys“R”Us, Inc. in 1985 as a part-time employee in the U.K., and in 2004, he was promoted to Merchandising Director for Toys“R”Us, International, where he managed buying decisions for categories including Video Games, Electronics, Learning and Sports.
The following year, Mr. Barry was appointed Vice President, Divisional Merchandising Manager for the Learning, Electronics and Entertainment businesses for the company’s U.S. toy stores. In 2010, he was named Vice President, General Merchandising Manager, Toys“R”Us, U.S., overseeing the Learning, Electronics and Entertainment product categories. In February 2012, Mr. Barry was promoted to Senior Vice President, Chief Merchandising Officer, Toys“R”Us, U.S. and was subsequently named to his current position in October of the same year.
In addition to serving on the TTF Board of Trustees, Mr. Barry also serves on the Board of the Entertainment Merchants Association and previously on the Board of Directors of The Toy Association.
Patrick S. Feely, Retired CEO of Radica Games Ltd.
Pat Feely was Chairman of The Toy Foundation at its founding in 2002 until 2004 and became chairman again in 2010. He has been on the board each year since the start of the Foundation. He also has been active with The Toy Association for many years having served as its Chairman from 2000 to 2002 after two terms as a Director and as an Advisor from 2002 to 2008.
Since his retirement from Radica Games, Ltd. in 2006, Mr. Feely has been advising toy and other children’s businesses and is currently a director of Playrific. He is also a member of the Pasadena Angels (investors in early stage companies).
A 35-year veteran of the toy and game industry, Mr. Feely was President and CEO of Radica Games, Ltd. from 1999 until 2006 when Mattel, Inc. acquired Radica. During his career he was CEO of Spectrum HoloByte, President of Bandai America and President of the Tonka Toys Division of Tonka, Inc. He began his career in the toy industry in marketing at Mattel Toys in 1977 having previously work at RCA Corporation in new business development. He has a BA in Psychology from Duke University and an MBA from the University of Michigan.
Neil Friedman, President and CEO, Alex Brands
An icon of the toy industry
who helped first popularize the pairing of technology and toys, Neil
Friedman was president of the Mattel Brands division at Mattel,
Inc. Friedman – a Toy Industry Hall of Famer and International
Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association’s (LIMA) Hall of Famer –
oversees all of Mattel, Fisher-Price and Radica:® brands such as
Barbie®, Hot Wheels® and Mattel Games, as well as toys licensed by the
industry’s leading entertainment properties, such as Disney/Pixar’s
CARS, Dora the Explorer™ and Sesame Workshop®.
As president of Fisher-Price Brands from 1999-2005, he oversaw the
introduction of electronic learning toys that significantly grew the
core Fisher-Price business. Today, Mr. Friedman continues to
ensure that every Mattel toy is “magical” and delivers a “wow” to kids
of all ages. Mr. Friedman joined Mattel in March 1997, following
the merger between Tyco Toys, Inc. and Mattel. Prior to joining
Tyco Preschool in 1995, he served as president of MCA/Universal
Merchandising; senior vice president, marketing and operations, Just
Toys; general manager, baby care division, Gerber Products; president,
Aviva/Hasbro, Hasbro’s import division; and executive vice president and
chief operating officer of Lionel Leisure/Kiddie City.
Mr. Friedman currently serves on The Toy Foundation (TTF)
Board of Trustees, the charitable arm of the TIA, where he also serves
as an advisory member to the organization’s board of directors.
Mr. Friedman attended Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J., where
he majored in finance. He serves on the boards of several
charitable organizations, including Save the Children and its Survive to
Five Council, the executive advisory board of Children Affected by AIDS
Foundation (CAAF), and the Northside Center for Child Development (New
Peter Henseler, Retired Vice Chairman, TOMY International
Mr. Henseler is the Founder and President of Wise Consulting Group Inc. (a Strategy and Management consulting firm). He previously held the position of Vice Chairman of TOMY International, a wholly owned subsidiary of Japan-based TOMY Company, Ltd. (a leading global designer and marketer of toys and juvenile products) until his retirement from TOMY International in October 2012. Prior, he held the position of President of TOMY International from April 2011 until April 2012 and served on its Board of Directors.
Previously, Mr. Henseler was President and a Board of Director of RC2 Corporation (a NASDAQ publicly traded toy and juvenile products company) from 2002 to 2011, at which time TOMY Company acquired RC2. He also served as RC2's Vice President of Marketing and Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing from 1996 to 2002. Prior to joining RC2, Mr. Henseler held various marketing and sales positions at McDonald's, Hasbro, American Greetings and Kimberly Clark.
As former Chairman of The Toy Foundation, Mr. Henseler currently serves as an advisor of The Toy Foundation Board of Trustees, the nonprofit foundation of The Toy Association. He most recently completed service of 3 full terms on the United States Toy Association Board of Directors. He also currently serves on the Board of Directors for First Midwest Bank Inc., one of the premier relationship-based banking firms in the Chicagoland banking market. In prior years, Mr. Henseler served on nonprofit boards, including the National Board of Playing for Keeps (2006-2008) and as an Advisory Board Member for Xavier University’s Williams College of Business for Entrepreneurial Studies (2008 – 2012). Pete and his wife Molly have been involved in local charitable organizations in their hometown of Chicago, including Educare of Dupage County, The Juvenile Diabetes Association and Make a Wish Foundation.
Sean McGowan, Managing Director, Liolios Group
Sean McGowan is Managing Director at Liolios Group. He joined the Newport Beach-based Investor Relations firm after a 30-year career as a sell side analyst on Wall Street. Sean began covering toy stocks for a small NY-based brokerage firm in 1986. In 1989, he became a founding member of Gerard Klauer Mattison, a New York investment bank that in 2003 was acquired by the Bank of Montreal, becoming BMO Capital Markets. During his 17-year tenure at the firm, GKM/BMOCM became a leader in providing investment research and advisory services to a number of industries, notably the toy industry. After stints at Wedbush Securities, Needham & Co. and Oppenheimer, and in his 30th year on Wall Street, Sean left the Street to pursue a parallel path providing advisory services for companies in industries he has followed. And for some in the toy industry, he may always simply be “the guy who did that rap song at the Hall of Fame dinner.” He and his wife Heidi have five children aged 21-32 scattered around the globe.
Lisa McKnight, Senior Vice President of Mattel’s North America Division
As senior vice president of Mattel’s North America Division, McKnight oversees the business and marketing strategies for the company’s newly formed US subsidiary across all Mattel Boys, Girls and Infant Preschool brands. In this role, McKnight is responsible for aligning the North American Division with the organization’s Global Brand Team, spearheading the U.S. activation efforts for brands such as Barbie, Hot Wheels, Fisher Price and Thomas. McKnight oversees pricing and retail channel strategies, media planning and buying, public relations, promotions and advertising for the market. The U.S. continues to be the largest market for Mattel, and Mattel is in turn the industry leader representing approximately 18% market share. Mattel is also the #1 toy advertiser to kids in the U.S.
Prior to overseeing the entire Mattel and Fisher-Price brands portfolio, McKnight was the VP Global Marketing for Barbie and responsible for the brand’s global marketing efforts. During her tenure on Barbie, she lead the re-launch of the brand kicking off with the 50th anniversary, propelling the world’s most popular fashion doll once again into the pop culture spotlight with a year of celebrations including an unprecedented New York Fashion Show with 50 designers celebrating this timeless fashion muse and real-life Barbie Malibu House installation designed by Jonathan Adler. She was instrumental in re-defining the brand’s global positioning and focusing marketing efforts around fashion, aspiration and cultural relevance. Under her tenure Barbie saw four consecutive years of growth.
She has worked at Mattel for since 1998 and has held responsibilities in consumer products, and marketing communications for a variety of brands including Barbie, Hot Wheels, and Mattel Corporate. Lisa has over 20 years of advertising and marketing experience, and prior to joining Mattel, worked on brands ranging from the Gap, to the Fairmont Hotels, to Taco Bell.
Julian Montoya, Vice President of Global Toys, Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP)
In his current role, Montoya is responsible for overseeing global sales and implementing business development strategies to build brand strength and to maximize revenue, retail presence and market share for WBCP’s portfolio of properties in the Toy category globally. He directly supervises the domestic sales team and coordinates international efforts through category management teams in all markets.
Prior to joining WBCP in 2000, Montoya worked at Lucas Licensing as Director of International Licensing and Sales, where he was responsible for building a strategic marketing plan and overseeing all aspects of the development and management of the international licensing and merchandising program for the Star Wars brand, including the program for Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.
Before working at Lucasfilm, Montoya was Executive Director of International Marketing at Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. His career in the entertainment industry began in 1986 at Warner Home Video.
Montoya attended the University of San Diego and graduated from the University of Pheonix.
Maura Regan, Senior Vice President and General Manager, International Media Business, Sesame Workshop
Maura Regan serves as Senior Vice President (SVP) and General Manager (GM), International Media Business for Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization responsible for Sesame Street. She oversees the Workshop’s international distribution and licensing businesses. She also manages Sesame Street English, Sesame Workshop’s global English language learning franchise. Under her leadership, Sesame Workshop has opened the first office in China.
Prior to that, as SVP and GM of Global Consumer Products, Regan oversaw the global consumer products retail business across all major categories of licensed goods, such as toys, apparel, home furnishings, food and nutrition, stationery and gifts including all related product development.
Regan has also served as Vice President and GM of Global Consumer Products, and Vice President of International Licensing and New Business Development. In this capacity, Regan oversaw new business development for such brands as Sesame Street and Dragon Tales, as well as the Workshop’s theme park initiatives. She expanded licensing activities and developed new business initiatives for Greater China and Japan.
Prior to joining the Workshop in 1999, Regan held executive positions with Scholastic Entertainment and MTV Networks.
Regan is a fellow of the US-Japan Foundation Leadership program and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is former Chairman of the Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA) and on the Advisory Board of One Animation. She was recognized as a top leader in business by Irish-America Magazine. Regan resides in New York City with her husband Jim and daughter Fiona.
Arnie Rubin, Chairman & CEO, Funrise, Inc.
Arnie Rubin who recently became a full time Park City, Utah resident has been in the toy industry for over forty-five years, starting as a bubble mixer at Chemical Sundries in 1965. In 1969, he co-founded Imperial Toy Company and in 1987 he formed Funrise Toy Corporation. Funrise is best known for its Tonka "light and sound" emergency vehicles with working sirens and lights, which it has manufactured under license from Hasbro since 1999. Funrise produces the popular Gazillion® Bubbles line, which has grown to become the #1 Bubble Brand in the Nation (NPD Group) and has many popular licenses.
Rubin is the past Chairman of The Toy Foundation (TTF) and The Toy Association (TA). In 2009, he was named to the Toy Safety Certification Program’s Oversight Council and elected as president of the International Council of Toy Industries and is a member if the ICTI Care Board of Governance.
In addition to his support of The Toy Foundation, Rubin has served on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Braille Institute, and was Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Institute for Families of Blind Children. He organized the Toy Run for Kids benefiting Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, which has brought donations of more than $100,000 annually.
Rubin was recognized for his outstanding contributions and service to the toy industry during the T.O.T.Y. (Toy Of The Year) Awards ceremony held on February 11, 2012, in New York City. Rubin joined former inductees including Alan Hassenfeld and Al Verrecchia, Hasbro, Inc., John Lasseter, Walt Disney Company/Pixar Animation Studios, Sam Walton, Walmart, Neil Friedman and Charles Lazarus, Toys ‘R’ Us to name a few.
Caren Shalek, Principle, CAS Consulting
Caren has a diverse background in consumer products licensing and business development, having over 25 years experience directing all facets of iconic preschool and entertainment brands. She has been serving on the Board of Directors of The Toy Foundation Board of Trustees since 2013.
For the past nine years Caren has piloted a wide variety of successful projects, including technology and social-media driven IP development, through her CAS Consulting company. Prior to consulting, Caren was Senior Vice President, Consumer Products at PorchLight Entertainment, a children’s and family entertainment company where she served on the Board of Directors. While at PorchLight, Caren was instrumental in the company becoming a leading manager of ancillary rights for children and family brands.
Caren spent 5 years with Mattel/Fisher-Price as Vice President Consumer Products, managing over 10,000 products and 100 licensees worldwide. She also served as Vice President of Licensing and Consumer Products and Product Development Worldwide for Sesame Workshop. It was Caren's team who first brought Tickle Me Elmo to market.
Caren holds a degree from Simmons College. She also completed the Thunderbird Global Leadership Program and the Senior Executive Mattel Global Leadership Curriculum.
Voin Todorovic, Chief Financial Officer, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Inc.
Since 2014, Voin Todorovic has been a Chief Financial Officer for Build-A-Bear Workshop, Inc., a publicly traded company offering an interactive retail-entertainment experience, where he oversees the treasury, corporate finance, information technology, and logistic services.
Prior to his current role, Mr. Todorovic was employed at Wolverine World Wide, Inc., a leading global footwear and apparel company, where he served as the head of finance and operations for its Lifestyle Group, which includes a portfolio of iconic brands such as Sperry Top-Sider®, Hush Puppies®, Keds®, and Stride Rite®. From 2011 to 2013 he was Vice President-Finance and Administration of the Stride Rite Children’s Group business, operating in wholesale, direct to consumer and international franchising, and from 2010 to 2011 he was Vice President of the Performance + Lifestyle Group. Prior to his tenure at Wolverine World Wide he held positions of increasing responsibility at Collective Brands, Inc. and Payless ShoeSource.
Mr. Todorovic currently serves as the President of the Build-A-Bear Foundation. He also serves on the Advisory Board - Center for Finance and Accounting Research - Olin Business School, at Washington University.
Mr. Todorovic holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance and MBA from Missouri State University.
As Senior Vice President, Global Toys and Publishing, Nickelodeon, Manuel Torres manages the world's number-one TV-based licensing business and handles the merchandising for Nickelodeon.
Based in New York City, Torres oversees the global business operations and licensing partnerships for Nickelodeon’s toy, consumer electronic and publishing lines. Torres aligns Nickelodeon’s activities to drive new business initiatives, leverage Viacom Media Networks’ global portfolio, and create innovative and safe product offerings to appeal to global clients’ expanding interests with a local relevance. Currently, Torres manages the global master toy license with Playmates Toys for the re-launched, hit series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which topped all major holiday toy lists in 2012. Torres was also responsible for securing the global deals with JAKKS Pacific as the master toy licensee for Winx Club; The LEGO Group for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and SpongeBob SquarePants construction toys; and Mattel’s Fisher-Price brand for Nickelodeon’s billion dollar franchise, Dora the Explorer and hit preschool properties, Team Umizoomi and Bubble Guppies.
Previously, Torres was Senior Vice President, Nickelodeon Consumer Products and Viacom Media Networks Latin America, where he was responsible for directing licensing and merchandising activities for all programming properties and brands. Torres established Viacom Media Networks Latin America Consumer Products Division out of Miami, which became the fastest growth business division, when he joined the company in 2004. His team of licensing professionals firmly entrenched Nickelodeon’s hit franchises SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and Go, Diego, Go! throughout the region. Under Torres’ leadership, Backyardigans and Dora the Explorer became Fisher-Price’s fastest-growing preschool properties ever in Latin America and SpongeBob SquarePants garnered significant sustained growth, reflecting the consistent performance the property is delivering year on year.
Prior to Nickelodeon, Torres served as General Manager of Warner Bros. Consumer Products in Mexico, where he managed its operations and oversaw the development and implementation of strategies to expand core brands, licensing sales, retail marketing and promotions. A native of Mexico with more than 20 years of experience in the Toy and Consumer Products Industries, Torres has also held sales and marketing and sales positions at Unilever Mexico and Mattel, Inc. in El Segundo, California.
Torres has been recognized by the industry for his leadership and expertise, recently elected as a member of The Toy Association, Inc. Board of Directors. Torres is also a Member of the Tiger Team at the Breast Cancer Org., where he collaborates in a program to bring greater awareness of breast cancer prevention in young kids.
Darren Traub, Partner, Akerman LLP
With notable experience in high-profile business, intellectual property, and entertainment litigation, Darren Traub helps emerging and industry leading companies and prominent individuals develop and protect their intangible assets. Darren works collaboratively with his clients to proactively manage risk and avoid litigation whenever possible. When litigation is the appropriate path, Darren defends clients' businesses, brands, and proprietary information with a national focus in state and federal courts, as well as in private arbitrations and before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.
Darren represents clients spanning a diverse range of industries from Fortune 500 companies to startups, including retail, fashion, and hospitality brands; international music festivals; record labels and other entertainment professionals; technology and software companies; hedge funds and private equity firms; and real estate developers. On behalf of his clients, Darren develops bespoke business strategies to grow and protect their assets through the use of trademark and copyright registrations, trade secrets, digital media, licensing, publicity, and internet-related content.
Darren also utilizes his extensive knowledge of his clients' most complex cybersecurity and data privacy issues to develop data security policies and procedures, as well as cybersecurity preparedness and response plans, to ensure clients are prepared in the event of a breach. He also provides customized breach counseling and coaching to clients involved in more than 70 breaches implicating domestic and international laws.
In addition to his professional work, Darren is actively involved in children’s charities and animal shelters. Darren has served as a mentor/youth advisor in the Athens Juvenile Detention Center, a ‘‘big’’ in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, and is a frequent community volunteer for the Boys & Girls Club toy drive and CASA.
Bob Wann, Chief Play Monster, PlayMonster LLC
Bob Wann is the Chief Play Monster of PlayMonster LLC formerly Patch Products Inc, makers of, Roominate, Lauri and PlayMonster Branded toys, games and educational products. Bob proudly serves on the Executive Committee of The Toy Association's Board of Directors as well as on the Board of Directors of The Toy Foundation. He also holds the position of Vice-Chairman / Chairman-elect for The Toy Association and Chair for the PlayCon Conference Committee.
Wann has over 35 years experience at both Fortune 500 and Entrepreneurial/Start-up companies in U.S and International markets. Through strategic brand and product development combined with creative marketing, he has overseen the development and growth of some of the most recognized brands in Toys and Consumer Packaged Goods, including M&M's, Johnson & Johnson, Fisher Price and Playskool. Wann developed his brand building and marketing skills at M&M Mars, Johnson & Johnson and American Greetings and later applied these skills as VP of Marketing at Fisher Price, Executive Vice President of Playskool and President/Worldwide General Manager of Milton Bradley/Parker Bros at Hasbro, overseeing the successful introduction or growth of industry recognized brands such as Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, Mr. Potato Head, Monopoly, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Fisher Price, Playskool, Nerf.
Wann is widely recognized as a creative thinker and marketer, developing award-winning programs such as "Family Game Night” and “Get Together Games.”
He has been married to his wife Amy, for 23 years, and resides in Lake Geneva, WI with their 19-year-old daughter Melanie and 27 year old daughter Mackenzie.