Chairman: Peter Henseler, Retired Vice Chairman, TOMY International
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 TIF Board of Trustees, Mr. Barry also serves on the Board of Directors of the Toy Industry Association and the Board of the Entertainment Merchants Association.
Ellen "Ellie" Block
Ellen "Ellie" Block is
President of Nonsense, Inc., a gift, accessories and art consultant
Ellie is a Tufts University graduate and registered occupational
therapist who worked professionally at the Illinois State Psychiatric
Institute and the Chicago Institute of Rehabilitation. While her
philanthropic interests range from art to urban issues to community
development, her abiding passion is for children.
She joined the Toy Industry Foundation Board in 2005 and chairs it's
Grant Committee. She has offered her leadership to a variety of
organizations , with posts past and present including: Chairman of the
Hasbro Children's Foundation, which focused on improving the quality of
life for children, vice president of the Board of the National Lekotek
Association, a group dedicated to using play to improve the lives of
disabled children and help integrate them into mainstream life; Serving
on diverse boards Taylor Institute Think Tank on Urban
Issues, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee where she has
chaired the International Development Program Committee for
Disaster Relief was a Vice Chair of Meyers Brookdale Institute and
Chaired the Children's Initiative Committee. She is Chair of Board of
Overseers Tufts University- Friedman School of Nutrition. She also
serves as an Overseer at the Heller School for Social Policy and
Management at Brandeis University.
Ellen is a Trustee of the University of Chicago Hospitals and Health
System and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the September 11
In 2000, Ms. Block was named on of "100 Women Making a Difference"
by Today's Chicago Woman magazine. She was awarded the Charles Loring
Brace Award from Children's Aid Society and the National Hannah Solomon
Award for work in literacy.
Ms. Block holds an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the Audrey Cohen
College for Social Research.
Patrick S. Feely, Retired CEO of Radica Games Ltd.
Pat Feely was Chairman of the Toy Industry 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 Industry 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 Industry Foundation (TIF)
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
Stephen Gass, President, Every Baby Company
From about the second grade on, Stephen Gass wanted to be a
doctor. Somewhere during college, his interest turned to becoming
an elementary school teacher. After a few years in the classroom, the
doctor calling returned. But, with just a dissertation to go to complete
a PhD in child development, his inner-Geppeto was released by a job at
Stephen’s spent the last 30 years creating and
marketing a wide range of children’s products including toys, books,
games and TV for kids between the ages of 6 months to 12 years.
From launching an educational toy group at Coleco, to leading the
creative efforts at Scholastic’s and Nickelodeon’s first software
divisions, to serving as President of Sesame Workshop, Online, Gass has
been an innovator throughout his career. He is a member of the Education
Committee of the board of trustees at PBS-affiliate, WNET/
Currently he serves as the president of the Every Baby
Company, an organization he co-founded to create products and programs
designed to help parents and their babies transform every day play, the
first of which is the multi-award winning series, eebee’s
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 is a member of the Toy Industry Association (TIA)’s Board of
Directors where he serves as Secretary-Treasurer of the Board and as a
member of the Executive Committee.
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
Søren Torp Laursen, President, LEGO Systems, Inc.
Søren Torp Laursen is president of LEGO Systems, Inc., the North American division of the family-owned and privately-held LEGO Group, one of the world’s largest toy companies, based in Billund, Denmark. From the office in Enfield, Connecticut, Laursen applies 28 years of experience in the company to overseeing sales, marketing and operations for the global toy brand in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand.
Laursen joined LEGO Group in 1986 as international marketing trainee. He became export manager, LEGO Overseas A/S, supporting LEGO sales and marketing through distributors in Africa and Asia. In 1991, he became area manager, LEGO Overseas A/S, responsible for all sales and marketing operations in Asia Pacific. He moved to Auckland in 1996 to begin LEGO New Zealand Ltd., where, as general manager, Laursen took over sales, distribution and marketing from distributors to fuel strong growth for the LEGO brand in the market. He returned to Denmark in 1999 as senior vice president, special markets, responsible for LEGO Europe East, LEGO Educational Division and special sales (global co-promotions and travel retail). In 2000, he moved to London to head the company’s Europe North and Europe East divisions.
Laursen is past Chairman of the American Toy Industry Association (TIA) and currently serves on their Board of Directors as well as the Toy Industry Foundation Board. He serves on the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (CCMC) Board of Directors, as well as a member of the CCMC’s Strategy Task Force Committee. Laursen is also on the Board of Directors of the LEGO Children’s Fund and recently joined the Board of Directors of A. T. Cross.
Laursen has a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from The Aarhus School of Business in Aarhus, Denmark and a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Marketing from The Business School South in Kolding, Denmark.
A native Dane, Laursen and his wife, Annette, reside in Connecticut, with their two children, Camille and Christian.
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.
Denielle Pemberton-Heard, Group Counsel Program Business
Affairs for Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)
Pemberton-Heard is responsible for negotiating content acquisition deals
for the national PBS broadcast schedule and PBS.org. Prior to joining
PBS, Pemberton-Heard held in-house legal positions with Time Inc. and
Discovery Communications, Inc. parent of Discovery Channel and The
Pemberton-Heard began her Legal career in private
practice as an associate at Connecticut’s Wiggin and Dana and later
moved on to the New York firm of Cowan Liebowitz and Latman where she
worked on commercial litigation and trademark matters and contributed
with D. Goldberg, et al., to “Recent Developments in Copyright” Selected
and Annotated Cases, Journal of the Copyright Society (1992); and A.
Greenbaum and J. Ginsberg, “1991 Letter Update” Trademark and
Unfair Competition Law, Cases and Materials, The Michie Company
Ms. Pemberton-Heard holds a B.A. from Tufts University, a Juris
Doctorate from Case Western Reserve University School of Law and is an
alumna of the Columbia University Graduate School of Business.
Pemberton-Heard has served as a Co-Chair of Walker Memorial Dinner Gala
in Washington DC benefiting Africare, on the Programming Committee of
the Washington Episcopal School and is currently mentoring at risk
students through the I Have a Dream Foundation as one of the founding
members of Level 8.
Genna Rosenberg, Principal, GennComm
Rosenberg joined the Toy Industry Foundation Board of Trustees in
February 2010. She is the Principal at GennComm, a full service
Communications and Strategy group deeply rooted in the toy industry.
Prior to launching GennComm, Rosenberg was Executive Vice President,
Strategic Marketing, Communications & Business Development for
Imperial Toy LLC, and she also served as Senior Vice President of
Communications, Investor Relations and Philanthropy for toymaker JAKKS
Pacific for 11 years. She was a key member of the executive management
teams for both companies.
Rosenberg has vast experience in marketing,
communications, licensing and business development, and has worked over
the years as a strategic and public ambassador for many of today’s most
beloved and classic kids’ brands with industry giants including Disney,
Nickelodeon, Marvel, Sanrio, HIT Entertainment, Warner Bros, Sony,
Mattel, Hasbro and many more. She is a spokesperson to worldwide media
on toy industry issues, and is also deeply passionate about children's
philanthropy. She is a Board Member for Camp Ronald McDonald for Good
Times in addition to Toy Industry Foundation. Rosenberg also formalized
JAKKS Cares™, under which she directed donations which have totaled over
$50 million and positioned the Company as a leader in Corporate Social
Rosenberg has been active on several Toy Industry Association
Committees for many years, is a Board Member and featured speaker for
Women in Toys, and a member of the Los Angeles Community Leaders group.
She was also a PR News 2003 PR Professional of the Year Finalist; LA
Business Journal 2009 Women Making a Difference Award for Executive of
the Year Finalist and The Women in Toys 2010 Wonder Woman in Toys ‘Woman
to Watch’ Winner.
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 Industry Foundation (TIF) and Toy Industry Association (TIA). 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 Industry 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 Shalek joined the Toy Industry Foundation Board of Trustees in February of 2013. She brings a diverse background in consumer products licensing and business development, having over 25 years experience directing all facets of iconic preschool and entertainment brands.
For the past 6 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. She also created and launched programs with retailers including Target, Wal-Mart, FAO and Toys R’ Us.
Caren holds a degree from Simmons College. She also completed the Thunderbird Global Leadership Program and the Senior Executive Mattel Global Leadership Curriculum.
Manuel Torres, Senior Vice President, Global Toys and Publishing, Nickelodeon
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 Industry 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.
Al Verrecchia, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hasbro,
Al Verrecchia, Hasbro’s President and Chief Executive
Officer from May 2003 through May 2008 and currently serving as Chairman of the Board, has held several senior executive positions
years at Hasbro, Inc. including President and Chief Operating
Chief Financial Officer; President, Hasbro Manufacturing Services;
Executive Vice President, Global Operations, among other key
in Providence, Rhode Island, Mr. Verrecchia joined Hasbro in 1965
A graduate of the University of Rhode Island, Mr. Verrecchia, now
resident of Narragansett, Rhode Island, is married to his wife Gerrie,
has four children, Michael, Michele, Melisa and Lisa, as well as
grandchildren. He received both his bachelor’s and master’s
URI. Mr. Verrecchia also received an Honorary Doctor of Business
Administration from Johnson & Wales University in 1991 and an
Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Rhode Island in
addition to serving on Hasbro’s Board of Directors, Mr. Verrecchia also serves on the board of FM Global,
world’s largest commercial and industrial property insurance
focusing on risk management and specializing in engineering-driven
property. Mr. Verrecchia also serves as Chairman of the Board of Iron Mountain, Inc.
Bob Wann, Chief Executive Officer, Patch Products
Bob Wann is the CEO of Patch Products Inc., makers of Patch, Lauri and Smethport Branded toys, games and educational products. Bob proudly serves on the Executive Committee of Toy Industry Association's Board of Directors and holds the Chair position for both the PlayCon Conference Committee and the Toy Industry Foundation's Fundraising Committee.
Wann has over 30 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 Hasbro. 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, and 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 21 years, and resides in Lake Geneva, WI with their 18-year-old daughter Melanie.