Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner dies of cancer at age 58

PAWTUCKET — Hasbro Chairman and CEO Brian D. Goldner, who among many other achievements led the toy and games company to new heights in global sales and the film and TV world, died Tuesday morning after a long battle with cancer.

Goldner, 58, is leaving his wife, Barbara, and daughter, Brooke. The Goldners’ son, Brandon, died of an accidental opioid overdose six years ago this month.

Goldner’s passing was announced to employees in an email of “deep and deep sorrow” by Hasbro executives Rich Stoddart, Deb Thomas and Dolph Johnson.

“In his more than two decades with Hasbro and thirteen years as our CEO,” they wrote, “Brian was the heart, soul and visionary of the company, guiding us all with passion to bring stories, joy and laughter to children and families around the world Brian’s tireless enthusiasm and drive have transformed our business, and his stellar leadership is responsible for Hasbro growing into the proud entertainment and game leader we are today.

“Our love and thoughts are with Brian’s wife, Barbara, his daughter Brooke, and the entire Goldner family. We will honor Brian’s legacy at Hasbro every day by continuing to work with the same passion, kindness and enthusiasm that Brian has as a leader defined.

“We all have so many fond memories of Brian. Sharing them allows his spirit and legacy to live on. We look forward to coming together as a Hasbro family to celebrate Brian and his legacy and to share our collective stories and memories as he would like. In the meantime, we invite everyone to share your memories, thoughts and condolences on a dedicated online site.

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In 2008, Goldner succeeded Al Verrecchia, the first head of Hasbro who was not a member of the founding Hassenfeld family. Verrecchia succeeded Alan Hassenfeld, who left the corner office to devote himself to philanthropy.

Goldner joined Hasbro in 2000 as president of the US Toy Division and came to Rhode Island from Bandai North America, the US-based division of the Japanese toy giant that sold a range of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers video games.

“Coming to Hasbro was a natural fit on many levels,” Goldner said years later. “Clearly there is a deep desire and need for a new strategic direction for the company – a reaffirmation of the strength of our brand. a new philosophy that was more contemporary and faster to keep up with the evolution of consumer behavior and gaming behavior worldwide – but also the idea that we could create a mission within our corporate strategy and purpose to make the world a better place for children and their families.”

His legacy includes a strong track record of corporate social responsibility and unprecedented Hasbro success in Hollywood, most notably with the Transformers film franchise. He also strengthened and expanded Hasbro brands including Nerf, My Little Pony, Monopoly, Scrabble, Play-Doh, Baby Alive, Star Wars, Tonka and Magic: The Gathering. He built Hasbro’s Wizards of the Coast subsidiary, which specializes in role-playing, trading cards, and digital gaming.

Goldner’s last major acquisition was Entertainment One, for $3.8 billion in 2019. He also acquired the rights to Disney’s blockbuster Frozen lines in a deal that dealt a blow to arch-rival Mattel, who previously owned the rights.

Goldner also served on the board of ViacomCBS.

Opioid Awareness Campaign

After their son’s death, Brandon, Brian and Barbara Goldner devoted time and energy to preventing deaths from opioid overdose. That earned the praise of many leaders, including then-Governor Gina Raimondo, who said in 2016:

“By having the courage to share their son’s story,” the Goldners show that this crisis can and will affect every town, city and neighborhood in Rhode Island. We must demand rapid change to address this crisis and advance treatment, prevention and recovery. I look forward to working with Brian and Barbara and so many others to address this crisis.”

In a Tuesday press release, Hasbro credited Goldner with having “played a significant role in transforming the company into a global player in games and entertainment.” It added, “Through his tireless work ethic and relentless focus, he expanded the company beyond toys and games into television, movies, digital gaming and more, ensuring Hasbro’s iconic brands reached every consumer.”

Tributes are piling up

Tributes to Goldner on the dedicated online site poured in as news of his death spread.

“The last time I met Brian in the Wizards office, I had the pleasure of playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons with him,” one woman wrote. He began to role-play with enthusiasm and good humor, just as he approached leadership. Brian’s positive presence and strong guidance will be missed.”

One man wrote: “My sincere and deepest condolences to his entire family. Brian was not only an incredible and passionate leader but an AMAZING person who cared about all of us at Hasbro. He was a true inspiration who made it easy to be the best you could be. You will be greatly missed, but we will do everything we can to ensure that your vision and passion live on at Hasbro RIP Brian.”

Another contributor wrote: “Due to COVID and all the challenges we faced, Brian put us first and I was always proud to have him as our leader. He made it a priority to keep us all employed at a time when so many feared losing their jobs. I will always remember his kindness and be grateful for how he ran this wonderful company and for being a part of such a great team. He will be missed. Praying for love and comfort for his family at this time.”

The company had announced in 2020 that Goldner had undergone continued treatment after a cancer diagnosis in 2014.

The final arrangements had not yet been announced Tuesday evening.

With reports from Staff Writer Paul Edward Parker.

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