the Bloom Report
Toy and Game People Obituaries - RIP - Rest in Play
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Remembering Those that have Passed . . .
Dennis Watts Toy World is sad to report that Dennis Watts passed away peacefully on Christmas Eve, following a long battle with illness. After a career in engineering design, Dennis entered the toy industry in 1974, taking over his father Fred Watts’ toy shop in Melton Mowbray. Dennis acquired another local toy shop in 1978 and from the two shop names, he formed the Arbon and Watts business. During the 90s and 00s, the retail stores won the Midlands region Toy Shop of the Year award on five separate occasions. In the mid 90s, Dennis created Mail Order Express – the idea behind the new operation was to work with selected supplier partners to carry entire ranges. In 1999, Mailorderexpress.com was launched online, leading to a massive expansion in the early 00s, as the company rode the wave of the initial internet boom.
Kelly Flock. Former Sony, LucasArts, and THQ executive Kelly Flock has passed away. A number of notable industry figures shared the news online, and paid tribute to Flock's leadership abilities and commitment to giving new voices a chance to shine. Flock spent decades working in the industry at a number of high-profile companies, holding several senior positions at Sony, including president and CEO of Sony Online Entertainment.
Oscar Koveleski, founder of the Auto World and Kidracer brands, died Monday (December 28, 2020) at the age of 88. In 1958, Koveleski — a race car driver and scale model enthusiast — launched Auto World as a mail-order store from the basement of a home in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The operation, which initially placed ads in the back of magazines, became a popular catalog business and pioneered the hobby and specialty retail space through its extensive offerings of slot-racing cars and track sets, plastic model kits, R/C cars, building supplies, and other items from brands including TYCO, Aurora, Scalextric, and more. “At that time slot cars were a mainstream toy,” says slot car evangelist Dave Kennedy, former brand manager for Hornby Hobbies’ Scalextric/Airfix lines and former North American marketing manager at Carrera of America. “They became a staple toy in every mass-market store and catalog … everyone — and I mean everyone — that is in the business now follows in Oscar’s footsteps.”
Diana Green Diana Green, long time buying director of Greens Toymaster, passed away at home on 13th December 2020 after a short illness. Toy World is sad to report that Diana Green, a popular and well respected toy industry figure, passed away peacefully on Sunday 13th December after a short illness. Diana was a well known figure in the industry since the 1970s, having worked as buying director for Greens for much of this time. Working alongside her husband Geoff, Diana selected ranges for the Snowfold buying group’s FOB import programme, which supported members ranges and margins from the 1980’s. Later, she served as a member of Toymaster’s Merchandise Committee for many years, as the Greens Toymaster chain expanded to a total of 17 stores.
Mercedeh Ward - Mercedeh Ward contributed to the toy industry she loved in a myriad of ways over the course of her 35-year career. A mechanical engineer by training, with a degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Mercedeh leveraged her considerable smarts and work ethic to ensure thousands of toys reached the market to deliver happiness to children. Her amazing career spanned multiple companies (in order): Mattel, Equity Marketing, Playmates, Spin Master, MGA, Funrise, Zippity Blue, and Spin Master (again). At a time where there were few female engineers in the toy industry (and no one had yet heard of STEM), Mercedeh became the go-to product development expert for girls toys in Southern California, where executing the right aesthetic was paramount. She made major contributions to many powerhouse brands, including: Barbie, Bratz, and Amazing Amanda (first major animatronic doll). In her second stint at Spin Master, she helped drive the success of the #1 preschool brand, Paw Patrol.
Francis Spear Francis passed away peacefully on 13th December 2020. Francis was born in the town of Fuerth, near Nuremberg, into a Jewish toy trade family. His great grandfather, Jacob Wolf Spear, started J. W. Spear & Soehne in 1878. By the time Francis was born into this close-knit family – he was the youngest of five grandchildren – the company was being managed by his grandfather Carl Spear and a great uncle. ...
When (Francis) he joined Spear’s Games, Francis worked in a number of different departments, but his passion was for the production side of the business and he took on the role of production director, overseeing the manufacturing process. Francis became managing director of J. W. Spear and subsequently its chairman. He was respected by many in the toy trade for his honesty, loyalty and modesty. When the company was sold to Mattel in 1994, Francis purchased farmland in Hertfordshire. Read More...
Glyn Davies Toy World is sad to report that Glyn Davies passed away in Liverpool on November 20th, after catching coronavirus. Glyn had turned 70 in July. Glyn worked in the toy trade for many years as a rep and national account executive for several toy companies, including Blue Box, Rainbow, Mondo and Fisher Price. His final role of a long and distinguished toy trade career was at Bandai. Julian Boyers, former managing director at Bandai, commented: “I was deeply saddened to hear of Glyn’s death, which happened very quickly and unexpectedly.
Jimmy Hunter, the founder of Hunter Toys, passed away on November 14th, 2020. Jimmy took on the role of BTHA Chairman from 2000-2002 and was heavily involved for many years with both Toy Fair and the BTHA’s ‘Value of Play’ initiatives. He was the champion for Total Fun, the consumer event held in the early 2000s, while he was also the brainchild behind the longstanding Golden Teddy awards. His daughter Sally Hunter, who has followed in Jimmy’s footsteps by building a long and successful career the toy trade, told Toy World: “The fact that the Golden Teddy awards are still being presented so many years later gives me goosebumps.
Simon Holdsworth, Managing Director at Thos Holdsworth & Sons Ltd, passed away on November 14th, 2020. "Many of our staff have worked alongside Simon for more than 20 years. Words like mentor, great boss, good friend, awesome storyteller, gregarious, quick witted, dynamic, proud, demanding, knowledgeable and tireless are just some of their comments. He is, and always will be our champion! Our legacy for Simon is to keep the company running smoothly and exemplify the excellence that he demanded from us each and every day. There will be many memories, and no doubt a number of stories from your time spent with Simon, perhaps encouraged by his favourite tipple of a G&T or a wee glass of Grand Marnier! In the coming weeks, I hope that we get the chance to remember the good times and raise a glass in his honour." - Fleur Tisdale
NOTES on colleagues we lost before we publicly listed in the Bloom Report
Kazuhisa Hashimoto - Legendary Game Designer And 'Konami Code' Creator - 2-27-20
Jens Nygaard Knudsen - inventor of the LEGO Minifigure, age 78 - 2-26-20
Allison Katzman designed the Blythe doll, age 95 - 4-3-20
Satish Pillalamarri - Co-founder, North Star Games - 10-8-20
Lee Volpe - 10-27-20
Roger Shiffman - Co-Founder, Tiger Electronics (Furby) - 10-3-20 Roger Shiffman was perfectly cast as the public face of a toy company, Tiger Electronics Inc., maker of Furby, Giga Pets and other hits of the 1980s and 1990s. He had a jungle of curly brown hair and a cherubic expression that prompted the Chicago Tribune to describe him as a grown-up kid. He also had an insight early in his career: Toys and electronics were merging. In 1978, Mr. Shiffman helped found Tiger in a Chicago suburb. Starting with Mickey Mouse record players, Tiger teamed up with Hong Kong partners to make hand-held electronic games, often tied to movies. Furby, a talking furball with its own language (Furbish), sent parents into a desperate chase for scarce merchandise in the late 1990s. Hasbro Inc. bought Tiger in 1998 for $335 million and kept Mr. Shiffman as president of the business for three years. He survived surgery to remove a brain tumor in 2002 and celebrated by treating family and friends to a “Grateful I’m Not Dead” trip to Disney World, where his wife, Carol Shiffman, was inducted as an honorary Mouseketeer. Three years later he helped found another company, the short-lived Zizzle Toys.
Mr. Shiffman died Sept. 5 of mesothelioma at his home in Highland Park, Ill. He was 67.
Bryan Stockton - Former CEO, Mattel - 8-2-20. Stockton spent 15 years at Mattel, including serving as Chief Executive Officer from 2012 to 2015 and Chairman from 2013 to 2015. Stockton joined Mattel in 2000 as Executive Vice President of Business Planning and Development. In 2003, Stockton was named Executive Vice President of International, and he was promoted to President of International in 2007. After leaving Mattel, Bryan focused his attention on photography. What was formerly a passion project, became an award-winning career. Bryan’s work was recognized by the distinguished Graphis Photography Annual, receiving a gold in their landscape category. His images were also hand-picked to be featured in Travel & Leisure. Most recently, Bryan was retained by the prestigious Relais & Chateaux resorts to bring a fresh look and “guest” perspective to their images including food, environmental, guest accommodations and activities.
DIANNA EFFNER - The doll world lost a renowned and beloved artist Oct. 14 with the death of Dianna Effner due to cancer. Born in 1945, Effner began designing and making porcelain dolls in the late 1970s, designing for a variety of manufacturers as well as producing and finishing dolls herself. Many of her designs have been released as vinyl dolls, but she is best-known for her porcelain dolls and her work as a mentor for other artists. She and her family established Expressions in 1992 to produce doll molds for the hobby, allowing other artists to reproduce her designs in porcelain. She also founded the Doll Dreamers Guild as part of her ongoing support of aspiring artists. Her designs continue to be popular with collectors and artists today. Read more about Effner’s remarkable career as a doll artist in this 2017 feature story from DOLLS magazine
Dave Spears of Spears Marketing. Paul David Spears, Devoted husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend, David passed away on July 13 after suffering a major stroke. Born in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, he received his B.A. from Evansville University and started his career as a copy writer for Sears Roebuck in Chicago. From there he moved on to marketing and spent 50 years in the toy business with Mattel, Takara and ultimately his own company. David will be remembered for his calm judgment, affability, humor, love of history, theater, music and the arts. On summer evenings he and Susan could often be found at Ravinia. In the winter you might find them at the Jazz Showcase. He both enjoyed and was frustrated by the Bears and took great pleasure from picking his Fantasy Football teams. A gentleman in every sense of that word, his family benefitted from his wisdom, decency and abiding love. Augie the cat will sorely miss his walks with David to get the morning paper. It was a ritual they both enjoyed.
Harvey Diamond - VP of International Licensing at Mattel and then President of H. Diamond International (June 17, 1936 - July 30, 2020)
Bernie Tenenbaum - Managing Partner of China Cat Capital and Lodestone Global, President of Children’s Leisure Products Group
Dom Emig - Toy Salesman, Walmart
Brian Downs - Toy Manufacturer Representative with Les Friedland Associates
Lucky Evani - Toys ”R” Us Buyer, Toy and Video Games
Robert Manlin President, Robert Manlin Marketing, Senior VP Sales, Larami Inc.
Alan Fine - Mattel exec heading up such functions as marketing research and strategic planning, licensing and entertainment, new business development, media planning and buying, packaging and consumer affairs. He is probably best known to us as the go-to guy for consumer research with his own company, KaleidOScope, especially for smaller toy companies.
Ken Spears - Co-creator of the cartoon series Scooby-Doo, died at the age of 82. Spears, who created the animated characters alongside his creative partner Joe Ruby, died of complications from Lewy body dementia.
Alan Roach – May 2019
Ted Kiesewetter - Founder of International Playthings, May 2019
Jerry Welch - CEO of The Right Start, then acquired Zany Brainy and FAO Schwarz, forming FAO
Peter Mayhew - Star Wars’ Original Chewbacca, May 2019
Rick Loomis 8-19 A legend in the tabletop RPG industry, served as the president of the Game Manufacturers Association for years.
Frank Brilando, 93, designer/engineer with Schwinn Bicycles for 4 decades and a two-time cycling Olympian. Started at Schwinn in 1951 as a draftsman, helped create the Sting-Ray and first derailleur-equipped mass-produced bicycles. "My guess is you will find Frank's name on more patents than anyone other than the Shimano family," said Jay Townley, a former Schwinn executive and bike industry analyst. May 2019
Bill Smith, the recently retired president and CEO of Huffy Corp., has died. Smith was at Huffy for 25 years, including 8 years as CEO, before announcing last September that he would retire in December 2018. RIP in May 2019
Jerry Robson - Tremendous Toys 8-26-18
Bill Dohrman - 2018
Abe Mor 3-18
Charles Lazarus 3-18
Horst Brandstaetter - Playmobil founder, JUN 11, 2015
Ralf Baer – Magnabox, Simon’s co-inventor, Dec 8, 2014
Milton Levine – Ant Farm and founder of Uncle Milton – died January 16, 2011 at the age of 97
Sid Sackson November 6, 2002
Stephen Hassenfeld (January 19, 1942 – June 25, 1989) was an American businessman best known for being the chairman and chief executive officer of Hasbro from 1980 until 1989. In 1980, Stephen's father Merrill died, and Stephen took over control of Hasbro. From 1980 to 1986, Stephen Hassenfeld increased Hasbro's profitability by 85% annually. Only two Fortune 500 companies have achieved such a high rate of growth in profitability. Forbes magazine rated Hasbro number one in a thousand-corporation survey of increased value during the first half of the 1980s, well ahead of other successful companies such as Wal-Mart and Berkshire Hathaway. In 1983, Hassenfeld established the Hasbro Charitable Trust, and in 1984, he created Hasbro Children's Foundation. The two charities help to improve the lives of children and their families throughout the world by providing management of grant donations in operating areas, product donation, matching gifts to higher education, special community projects, and volunteering. Also, in 1990, the Stephen D. Hassenfeld Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders was created. The Children's Center is affiliated with NYU Langone Health, and under its current director, Dr. Elizabeth Raetz has been making remarkable strides in alleviating the worst of children's suffering. (from Wikipedia)
Louis Marx (August 11, 1896 – February 5, 1982) was an American toy maker and businessman whose company, Louis Marx and Company, was the largest toy company in the world in the 1950s. He was described by some as an experienced businessman with the mind of child.
Marx was known by numerous nicknames, including "Toycoon," "the Henry Ford of the toy industry," "the hawk of the toy industry," and "the toy king of America. (from Wikipedia)
Merrill Hassenfeld (19 February 1918 - 21 March 1979) president and chairman of the board of Hasbro, Inc., the toy manufacturing giant that during the 1960s launched G. I. Joe, the first male action figure with accessories. The oldest of three children of Henry Hassenfeld, a pencil and toy manufacturer, and Marion Frank, a homemaker, Hassenfeld was born one year after his father and uncles Herman and Hillel founded Hassenfeld Brothers, Inc. After graduating as a business major from the University of Pennsylvania in 1938, Hassenfeld joined the family's firm, which by then had bought a pencil company. Just before World War II, Hassenfeld married Sylvia Kay; they had three children. At that time the company began including in its pencil boxes play stethoscopes and other toy medical equipment, sewing kits, and school supplies. In 1943 Hassenfeld's father placed his sons to lead the company's divisions. Merrill was put in charge of toys, while his brother Harold, headed pencils. Later, his brother's division split from Hassenfeld Brothers and became the Empire Pencil Corporation. The first best-seller made by Hassenfeld Brothers (the name was changed to Hasbro Industries in 1968) was Mr. Potato Head, invented by George Lerner. Introduced in 1952, it was the first toy advertised on national television. At first these toys were only plastic facial parts applied to an actual potato; by 1964 they came complete with a hard plastic body. Mr. Potato Head has sold over 50 million units since its development. (from Enclyopedia.com)
Marvin Glass - An entrepreneur and the creative force behind Marvin Glass and Associates (MGA). His salesmanship and uncanny ability to spark creativity in the designers he employed was unparalleled. In 1949, he licensed a "novelty item" to H. Fishlove & Company called Yakitty-Yak Talking Teeth. This item was invented by Eddy Goldfarb, who worked with Marvin Glass for a very short time after World War II. MGA... created some of the most successful toys and games of the twentieth century such as Mr. Machine, Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, Lite Brite, Ants in the Pants, Mouse Trap, Operation, Simon, Body Language, and the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle (from Wikipedia)
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