Barry Nagler is chief legal officer for Hasbro Inc., home to Transformers, G.I. Joe, Tonka, Monopoly, Risk, Clue, Candy Land and Trivial Pursuit. Hasbro uses these brands across the entertainment spectrum, branching out from traditional toys and board games to digital games, movies, television programs and licensing. This year, Hasbro purchased a 50% interest in a television network aimed at children, in a joint venture with Discovery Communications Inc. The yet-to-be named network will launch in fall 2010. Headquartered in Pawtucket, R.I., Hasbro reported revenues of about $4 billion and 6,000 employees.
LEGAL TEAM AND OUTSIDE COUNSEL
Nagler supervises a staff of 24 attorneys and 31 support staff. At least 90 percent of Hasbro’s legal work is done in-house. “We try to keep the good stuff in-house — the most intellectual, fun work to do,” Nagler said.
The only major area regularly outsourced is litigation — typically in jurisdictions remote from Hasbro’s headquarters. Nagler declined to name any of the firms he uses.
“Our main criteria for hiring of outside counsel are quality, relevant expertise, responsiveness and cost-effectiveness. We use a wide variety of firms, as we are focused on hiring the best individual lawyers for the projects and regions in question rather than law firms,” Nagler said.
Regarding pro bono and diversity, Hasbro gives employees four hours per month of paid time for community service and charitable endeavors. Nagler encourages his workers to use their time for pro bono and other causes they are passionate about. Hasbro has signed both the Georgetown Law Center Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge and the diversity Call to Action.
Nagler oversees significant transactions and strategic litigation, board and governance matters and compliance, counseling and training. His day starts at about 7:30 a.m. and ends “6-ish,” he said. “I might be speaking to Europe on the way in and, on the way home, talking to a colleague on the West Coast.”
Nagler’s philosophy is to “hire very talented, self-sufficient professionals and then give them the tools, training and latitude to do their jobs. This is particularly true in a fast-moving company like Hasbro, where the GC does not have the luxury of being involved in all issues and an overly hands-on approach would slow down decision-making and inhibit professional development.”
Being a generalist goes with the job title, but, “like other GCs, I need to cultivate particular familiarity with areas of the law that are core to my client’s business success. In my case, with Hasbro’s strategic move into movies, television and digital gaming, I have had to focus on building additional expertise in the various aspects of entertainment law.”
Two-thirds of his staff are “client lawyers” — the main contact for patent, trademark, employment, product safety, antitrust and litigation matters. “We also have our equivalent of rainmaking, in that our client lawyers are responsible for developing strong relationships with their key clients…to ensure that we will be at the front end of the information flow and can maximize the value we provide.”
Brand protection is the main priority. “We have limited issues with counterfeiting, then there’s trademark and copyright infringement, and then the ‘knock off’ products — which is the sincerest form of flattery. Those are most interesting because some people get close to the line but don’t go over it. We are very aggressive but strategic in enforcing our rights.”
The company has been “relatively unscathed” by recalls, but in 2007 Hasbro recalled 1 million Easy Bake Ovens because of safety concerns. Nagler said that the department has “allocated substantial resources to product safety.”
In 2008, Hasbro closed down the infringing “Scrabulous” on Facebook. “The site had received strong fan support but, unfortunately, was a blatant infringement of both our trademark and copyright in the legitimate Scrabble game,” Nagler said. The move “made me quite unpopular with a lot of very passionate Scrabble players for a period of time,” but a legitimate Facebook Scrabble outlet was established and things calmed down. “It’s the kind of case you have to take on, even though it gets played as David versus Goliath in the press.”
Nagler reports to President and Chief Executive Officer Brian Goldner.
ROUTE TO THE TOP
Nagler earned a Bachelor of Science degree in government from Franklin & Marshall University in 1978 and his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1981. He began his legal career in the litigation department at the old Foley, Hoag & Eliot and, after six years, went in-house at Reebok International Ltd., eventually rising to senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary. He joined Hasbro in 2000.
Nagler has taken an active interest in the Association of Corporate Counsel. He chaired the nominating, audit, executive, membership and advocacy committees and was chairman of the board from October 2006 to October 2007. In 2006, Nagler won the ACC’s Corporate Counsel Excellence Award – Northeast Chapter for the most significant contributions to the corporate counsel profession.
When hired at Reebok, Nagler was offered a sports marketing position that would have entailed deals with high-profile athletes and teams — his “dream job.” On his first day of work, he found out that he’d actually be working on corporate and securities issues.
“At the time, I was crushed, but in hindsight it was the best possible outcome for me, since I never could have become a general counsel without this experience. The GC at the time told me he was doing me a favor and, in hindsight, he was right.”
New York City native Nagler enjoys golf, reading, Facebook and Scrabble. He is married to Laurie Nagler, a retired teacher. They have two children: Daniel, 23, and Alyssa, 20.
LAST BOOK AND MOVIE
The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown; and G.I. Joe — The Rise of Cobra.