Activist Investor May Force Hasbro To Dump Dungeons & Dragons And Wizards Of The Coast
Time to roll for initiative. It seems that the ongoing battle between Alta Fox, a Texas-based activist investment firm, and toy giant Hasbro is getting more heated. Alta Fox has been pushing Hasbro hard to spinoff Wizards of the Coast and its intellectual properties (including Dungeons & Dragons) in an effort to increase Hasbro shareholder value. Hasbro has refused to do so, and on April 4 rejected the sale proposal as detailed in the Wall Street Journal.
Activist Investor Pushes Wizards Of The Coast Sale
It's starting to get ugly.
A few weeks after Hasbro's refusal to sell Dungeons & Dragons and Wizards, Alta Fox filed a proxy statement on April 27 and issued letters to Hasbro shareholders, outlining the firm's plan to nominate three of their own candidates to Hasbro's Board of Directors.
Within the proxy statement, Hasbro's current Board and it's Chairman, Rich Stoddart, are harshly criticized. Shouting in all caps and in bold:
WE BELIEVE HASBRO SUFFERS FROM AN ARROGANT, INSULAR AND INEFFECTIVE BOARD CULTURE UNDER RICH STODDART AND OTHER LONG-TENURED DIRECTORS.
If that wasn't enough shade, the proxy statement follows up with a fireball, personally attacking Stoddart with criticism and innuendo, questioning his background and qualifications to run the company:
With such catastrophic performance in his prior roles, our view is that Mr. Stoddart should never have been appointed to the Board of such a large and prominent entity as Hasbro – let alone be allowed to serve as interim CEO or Chairman. One can only wonder whether any of Hasbro’s recent losses of key contracts to rival Mattel are related to Mr. Stoddart not moving “fast enough—or boldly enough” as interim CEO and Chairman.
Dumping Dungeons & Dragons
Beyond attacking Stoddart, Alta Fox is not giving up the dream of Hasbro selling off Wizards of the Coast and dumping Dungeons & Dragons. Taking a page from grassroots movements, Alta Fox set up a "Strengthen Hasbro" website here where they urge the election of their hand-picked Board members and the spinoff of Wizards:
It’s our view that the current Board is not suited to oversee Wizards and has only stunted the segment’s growth. A separation of these segments will allow both Hasbro and Wizards to flourish.
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Photo by Vladimir Solomianyi on Unsplash
What Does A Sale Mean For The D&D Community?
Whether forcing Hasbro to sell off Wizards of the Coast will allow the company to flourish, as Alta Fox believes, is up for debate. Regardless, as a long time D&D player I have a few personal observations that I'd like to make:
- Hasbro has been supportive of Dungeons & Dragons and has been good to the D&D community. The company has provided support and stability as evidenced by investments, both creative and monetary. A treasure trove of new books, an upcoming movie, and the recent acquisition of D&D Beyond are just some of the ways Hasbro has helped the game we all know and love to reach heights of unsurpassed popularity.
- Alta Fox cares about shareholder value. In my opinion, the desire to spinoff Wizards of the Coast isn't about strengthening Dungeons & Dragons or the D&D community, and whether the game flourishes or dies is only secondary to jacking up the stock price in the near term. Money is all that matters, and the long term success of Wizards and D&D is inconsequential as long as shareholders profit from a quick sale.
- Dungeons & Dragons is in a good place right now. In my opinion, selling off Wizards of the Coast presents more risk to the D&D community than potential reward. I could be wrong, and perhaps a game-focused buyer will take D&D to places I can't even imagine. I have my doubts though, and can more easily imagine the game being neglected and not creatively and monetarily supported the way it is now. I'm usually an optimist when it comes to change, but I can't help catastrophizing over Alta Fox forcing Hasbro's hand to spinoff Wizards and dump D&D -- especially given the proxy statement's hostile tone and unabashed ugliness.
So what do you think fellow travelers?
- Should Hasbro be forced to sell Wizards of the Coast and Dungeons & Dragons?
- Would a spinoff benefit the game and the D&D community?
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