Hasbro: ‘Small percentage’ of R.I. employees will be laid off

THE NUMBER of Rhode Island employees that will be impacted by the latest round of Hasbro Inc.’s announced layoffs remains uncertain.  Hasbro spokesperson Allison McEneaney told Providence Business News Friday that “a small percentage of the impacted employees work in our Rhode Island offices.” However, McEneaney would not comment further, only adding reductions will start to take effect within the next several weeks. / PBN FILE PHOTO

PAWTUCKET – Hasbro Inc. spokesperson Allison McEneaney told Providence Business News Friday that only “a small percentage” of the approximately 1,000 employees the company will soon begin laying off work in Rhode Island.

McEneaney declined to specify the number of local employees who will lose their jobs, adding the layoffs will start to take effect within the next several weeks. The company employs approximately 1,400 in Rhode Island.

On Thursday, the toymaker announced the job cuts as part of moves unveiled last year to save up to $300 million annually by 2025. 

The company said the layoffs amount to 15% of its global full-time workforce. 

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Eric Nyman, president and chief operating officer, is also departing the company, Hasbro said. 

Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks said the toymaker will “focus on fewer, bigger brands; gaming; digital; and our rapidly growing direct to consumer and licensing businesses.” 

HASBRO INC. CEO Chris Cocks said the toymaker will “focus on fewer, bigger brands; gaming; digital; and our rapidly growing direct to consumer and licensing businesses,” Thursday after announcing the company will layoff 1,000 of its employees. / COURTESY HASBRO INC.

“The elimination of these positions will impact many loyal Hasbro employees, and we do not undertake this process lightly,” Cocks said in a statement. “However, the changes are necessary to return our business to a competitive, industry-leading position and to provide the foundation for future success.” 

In last year’s third quarter, Hasbro reported a 15% decline in revenue compared with the same period a year earlier. 

Former Hasbro CEO Alfred Verrecchia said the job cuts shouldn’t be much of a concern for the state or Hasbro’s long-term future. He said Hasbro has great products and brands that bode well for the company.

“All CEO’s from time to time are in this position to keep costs in line,” said Verrecchia, who retired from Hasbro in Feb. 2015 after 50 years at the company. “Chris is doing what he needs to do to get the company back in the right direction.”

Hasbro’s layoff announcement was heard loud and clear on Wall Street. Bank of America Friday said it remains cautious on the toy company and has an underperform rating on Hasbro stock. 

Wall Street analyst Gerrick Johnson of BMO Capital is suggesting investors hold on to Hasbro stock following the announcement. As of 11:30 a.m., Hasbro shares were down $4.07 at 59.71 per share. 

Analyst Jason Haas Friday told MSNBC that Hasbro has proven its ability to develop compelling content and brands that engage kids, families and the broader fan community and the company is focused on implementing its Blueprint 2.0 strategy. However, he added his firm still has concerns that the company has been overproducing Magic: The Gathering in a worsening economic backdrop, which could damage the long-term value of the brand. 

Hasbro unveiled Blueprint 2.0 on Oct. 4 when it cut its full-year revenue forecast. The initiative focuses investment on its most valuable franchises across toys, games, entertainment and licensing. The toy company plans to significantly increase strategic investment in key brands, focusing on gaming, direct to consumer, franchise brands and licensing. Priority brands for merchandise investment include Peppa Pig, Transformers, Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and My Little Pony.

On Nov. 17, Hasbro announced it was selling part of its film and TV production and distribution unit, Entertainment One. 

Hasbro bought Entertainment One for about $4 billion in 2019 to expand into the infant and preschool market by gaining access to popular TV shows such as “Peppa Pig” and “PJ Masks.” 

Cocks said Hasbro’s consumer-products division performed poorly in the final three months of 2022 “against the backdrop of a challenging holiday consumer environment.” 

He said, however, its role-playing game unit Wizards of the Coast, digital gaming, Hasbro Pulse and its licensing business posted strong fourth-quarter growth. Hasbro is due to report fourth-quarter and full-year results in mid-February. 

Wizards of the Coast canceled at least five video game projects, Bloomberg News reported Jan. 4. 

A company spokesman told Bloomberg News fewer than 15 people at Wizards of the Coast will lose their jobs due to the cancellations and will be given a chance to apply for new roles within the company. 

Hasbro shares are down 29% in the last 12 months through the close of Thursday’s regular trading day on Wall Street. 

It was a little more than a year ago Cocks was appointed CEO of Hasbro, replacing Brian Goldner, the longtime CEO who died of cancer in October 2021. 

Cocks had been a top executive in Hasbro’s lucrative Wizards of the Coast and digital gaming division. 

On June 8, Hasbro shareholders reelected all of the company’s 13 directors to its board, rejecting a slate of three nominees from activist investor Alta Fox Capital Management, which had waged a contentious, monthslong proxy battle for more influence over the company. 

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