KINGSTON, R.I. – April 24, 2009 — The students in University of Rhode Island Professor Robert Comerford’s senior-level strategic management class learned this semester from one of the leaders who made Pawtucket-based Hasbro Inc. one of the world’s leading toy and game makers.
URI alumnus Alfred J. Verrecchia, chairman of Hasbro’s board of directors, spent the entire spring semester as an executive-in-residence at URI’s College of Business Administration discussing the research, drive and risk-taking that goes into building a company known around the world for its premier toy brands.
But they learned so much more than how Hasbro acquired such brands as Tiger Electronics, Cranium, Tonka, Milton-Bradley, PlaySkool and how it became a major player in the movie industry with its toy line for Star Wars and its first feature hit, The Transformers.
“Just being able to sit in a class and benefit from all of his knowledge and experience made it so valuable,” said Jordan Cassidy, an entrepreneurship major from Westfield, N.J. “His experience on the board of directors gives us a real-world perspective. This is one of the best classes I’ve had at URI.”
Classmate Sam Infurchia, a senior accounting major from Bethel, Conn, said Verrecchia inspired him because Verrecchia was once a student just like him who built his foundation at URI. “This class is interesting in an overall sense because it hits so many key areas of business.”
Comerford said Verrecchia’s participation made the required capstone class for all business majors that much more valuable and interesting.
“Having Al Verrecchia in this class has been a wonderful opportunity for both students and me,” Comerford said. “Throughout the course our approach was that I would conduct my class as usual and Mr. Verrecchia would kibitz by jumping in with an incident or example related to the topic. At first we were a little awkward with each other, but we quickly got onto the same page and from then on it was a lot of fun. He also took several classes for which he prepared a lecture/discussion by describing Hasbro’s experience related to whatever the topic was. His presentation on diversification was a great class and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.”
“It had been a long time since I had been in the classroom,” Verrecchia said. “So I was very appreciative of Bob Comerford when he allowed me to participate and be a resource for his strategic management class. The students were fantastic—they were bright, energized and enthusiastic.”
Verrecchia, who earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from URI’s College of Business Administration in 1967, earned his master of business administration from the University in 1972. The University presented him with an honorary doctorate at its 2004 Commencement.
One of Verrecchia’s lectures this semester included an overview of Hasbro’s major acquisitions, and it started with this basic question, “When should a firm diversify?” Verrecchia told the students diversification is on the table when a business faces diminishing growth prospects; it has opportunities to expand into industries whose technologies and products complement its present business; it can leverage existing competencies and capabilities by expanding into businesses where these resource strengths are key success factors; it can reduce costs by diversifying into closely related businesses; and it has a powerful brand name it can transfer to products of other businesses to increase sales and profits of these businesses.
“You also have to ask how long will it take your company to realize the benefits of an acquisition,” Verrecchia said.
While discussing the specifics of each acquisition, Verrecchia also offered tips that could be applied to business and the students’ lives. “If you don’t take risks, you are not going to grow. If you don’t swing the bat, you are not going to get a hit.”
GETTING HIS POINT ACROSS: Alfred J. Verrecchia, chairman of Hasbro Inc.’s board of directors and a URI alumnus, gestures while making a point to a class at URI’s College of Business Administration. URI Department of Communications and Marketing photo by Michael Salerno.