by Julia DeKorte | 16 Jun 2022
Advertised as “a true-life business suspense story,” author G. Wayne Miller certainly delivered with his book Toy Wars: The Epic Struggle Between G.I. Joe, Barbie, and the Companies That Make Them. A narrative that closely follows three generations of Hassenfelds through the founding and chairmanship of Hasbro, Toy Wars is informative and professional while also engaging readers in the fast-paced, dramatic world of the toys and games business.
Beginning with a short family history and the shocking and tragic death of beloved chairman Stephen Hassenfeld, the scene is set: Alan Hassenfeld, who was more than happy to live in his older brother’s shadow, is suddenly looked to as the next chairman of the multimillion-dollar company. The rest of Toy Wars follows Alan through the triumphs and downfalls of running a publicly owned company with family-owned ideals.
Toy Wars, a narrative of both the Hassenfelds and Hasbro itself, is entirely unique in the empathetic and engaging manner in which it is written. Senior executives and managers come alive as players on a team, competitors like Mattel are seen as the enemy, with G.I. Joe, Hasbro’s claim to fame, up against Barbie, Mattel’s it-girl. Readers are made to root for Hasbro in its war against Mattel, sympathize with Alan in his struggles following business plans over his heart, and taste the bittersweetness of change as a small, family-owned company started by Jewish immigrants turns into a corporate giant, dominating in the toys and games world.
Aside from the emotion that is written into this story, Toy Wars is incredibly informative. Readers get inside looks into every step of what goes into the creation of a toy, behind the scenes of business deals and acquisitions, the ins and outs of successful toys versus failed toys, and the true politics that became a part of business in the 1980s and 1990s. The inner-workings of Alan Hassenfeld’s mind and his struggle to both live up to his predecessors but also leave his own mark, the brilliant business strategies of Al Verrecchia, the Three Musketeers in their prime, all is laid out for readers in the captivating story of Hasbro from its beginnings in Rhode Island to its current global position as one of the best toy companies in the world.