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ASTRA Board Director, Damien Crocker, Joins HABA USA

HABA USA has hired Damien Crocker as a new sales manager.

Crocker brings with him 10-plus years of sales experience in the toy industry. He comes to HABA from ORB, (formerly The Orb Factory), where he most recently served as national sales manager. During Crocker’s tenure at ORB, he was responsible for the company’s several industry vendor awards.

Crocker also currently serves as a board director of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), where he works closely with other board directors and officers to develop strategic plans and programs to aid the continued viability of the specialty toy industry.

“We are very pleased to have Damien Crocker join the HABA USA team as he truly understands the needs of the specialty retailer, a market we are 100 percent focused on,” says HABA USA President Lea Culliton. “Damien’s experience, relationships, and well-respected reputation in the specialty industry are invaluable. He and Peter Reynolds will be able to better serve our customers and promote the value of play in all of HABA’s toy and game assortment to our audience.”

Xilam Animation Taps New EVP, Development and Global Sales

Xilam Animation has appointed Morgann Favennec as its new executive vice-president of development and global sales. Favennec joins Xilam at a time of rapid expansion across all the company’s areas of business including development, production, and distribution with a growing number of new platforms and networks.

Favennec has played a major role throughout her career in the success of numerous world-renowned programs such as Peppa Pig, Geronimo Stilton, and Pat the Dog.

Reporting to Marc du Pontavice, founder and president of Xilam, Favennec will be responsible for the development of the company’s commercial activities, whether it be exploiting new markets or positioning the group for new business opportunities. Her role will also encompass searching for potential acquisitions and co-productions both domestically and internationally.

She will also be actively involved in supervising the development of new intellectual property and copyright within the company. Within the framework of reorganizing Xilam, Favennec will lead a team of 14, divided into four distinct poles of activity: marketing, sales, digital, and licensing.

Most recently, Favennec founded and ran Superrights as deputy managing director. Prior she served as head of children’s programs with the M6 Group (Bertelsmann) and Disney Televisions acquisitions manager at the Walt Disney Company Group. She also held roles at Europe Images (now LE Rights) and Salsa Distribution, as a specialist in the Latin-American market. When the company was purchased by TV-Loonland, her concentration was on the European market, where she sold series such as Clifford the Big Red Dog and Les Petits Fantômes (Little Ghosts). Working as an independent consultant, she was also responsible for bringing Peppa Pig to France.

Universal Expands Presence in EMEA with New Appointments, Amps up Games Focus

In a strategic move to drive international growth and shift to direct management of its consumer products business in select EMEA territories, Universal Brand Development (UBD) has appointed five industry veterans to its leadership team. The key appointments are a part of a structural shift to aggressively grow Universal’s Consumer Products business abroad and expand the studio’s global franchises.

Kathrin Brandhorst, Virginie Kleinclaus, Karen Argos, Mariella Almasio, Jean-Francois Auquier join the previously announced, Hannah Mungo, as Country Directors for UBD’s international regions, including Germany, France, Iberia, Italy, Benelux, the UK, and Ireland, respectively. The newly formed team will report to Jonathan Baker, vice-president, EMEA consumer products, UBD.

Kathrin Brandhorst has been appointed as country director for Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Based in Munich, Brandhorst will be responsible for driving growth and leading the consumer products team within her territory, as well as serving Germany’s agent, Super RTL, responsible for the DreamWorks portfolio. Previously, she was responsible for the DreamWorks consumer products business in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria as well as the Nordics. She also worked in various marketing and retail roles in the consumer products’ division of The Walt Disney Company in Germany as well as internationally.

Leading strategic direction for the French region, Virginie Kleinclaus has been appointed as country director, France. Most recently, Kleinclaus was managing director of CPLG France. She also spent nearly 20 years in the Walt Disney Company consumer products division, where she held various senior positions, including director of infant, fashion and home for France, as well as retail and marketing director for major retailers in France and the Benelux. She also oversaw the global direct-to-retail sales development of Carrefour after starting her career as business development manager across emerging markets.

Karen Argos has been named country director for Spain and Portugal, where she will spearhead the business unit in Iberia. Argos joins the team after 15 years at The Walt Disney Company Iberia, where she was responsible for the softlines division. Prior to that, she held different roles at retail with Continente Spain (Carrefour) and L’Orèal Paris. Argos is based in Madrid.

Mariella Almasio has been appointed country director, Italy. Almasio has extensive industry background, serving in various roles within Disney Consumer Products based in Milan, where she contributed to the business growth of the fashion and home lines. Prior to Disney she held several positions in the commercial departments of Hertz Italia and Grup.P.Italia, managing luxury licensees.

As head of the Benelux region, Jean-Francois Auquier has been named country director, Benelux. Prior to his appointment, Auquier was responsible for managing the DreamWorks agents within the France and Benelux region for DreamWorks Consumer Products. He also held various positions at the Walt Disney Company Consumer Products division, across Benelux, the U.K. and Italy.

UBD will also expand its strategic focus on games and build an organization to self-publish its own titles, taking a more direct role in the creative, development, marketing, and distribution of games based on its IP. To drive this new business initiative, the company announced the appointment of three new executives: James Molinets, senior vice-president of production; Timothy FitzRandolph, vice-president of creative; and Fabian Schonholz, senior vice-president of technology and operations. Molinets and Schonholz report to Chris Heatherly, executive vice-president of games and digital platforms, UBD.

The initial focus for self-publishing will be on mobile with plans, over time, to expand to other platforms. The first titles from the new publishing effort will launch later this year. Universal will continue to license its IP, strategically complementing its publishing strategy.

Molinets most recently served as vice-president, games at Disney, where he was responsible for production and general management of all Disney and Pixar mobile games. Molinets is a 24-year veteran of the games industry who produced the critically acclaimed Alice in collaboration with American McGee, and later oversaw second party development for Sony and third party development for Disney.

FitzRandolph was an early pioneer on mobile with the indie success, Jelly Car, and later teamed with Molinets at Disney on Where’s My Water, which became a successful franchise with three sequels, short-form animation, toys, and other consumer products. Together, they built Disney Mobile into a leading publisher of mobile games with hits such as Inside Out: Thought Bubbles and Disney Emoji Blitz. They also oversaw the kids’ virtual world Club Penguin, and recently launched its mobile successor, Club Penguin Island.

Schonholz is a seasoned entrepreneur with a focus on big data and cloud services. He’s worked for companies such as Internet Brands, where he was vice-president of technology; professional photography service Pictage, where he was chief technology officer; and most recently the social analytics company Ninja Metrics, where he served as chief operating officer. As senior vice-president of technology and operations, he will oversee Universal’s cloud-based game publishing infrastructure with an emphasis on leveraging data to drive value across the gaming network.

In addition, two Universal gaming executives have new roles. Bill Kispert, a Universal veteran of 15 years, moves into a new strategic position as general manager of business development, reporting to Heatherly. Pete Wanat was named vice-president of production, reporting to Molinets. Wanat is a 16 year Universal vet and has produced dozens of games over the course of his career, including games based on movie IP such as Chronicles of Riddick and its sequel as well as Scarface: The World Is Yours.

UBD’s Games and Digital Platforms business unit creates games and interactive experiences that extend engagement with the company’s franchises on mobile, console, PC, and emerging platforms such as virtual and augmented reality. The team is also responsible for utilizing NBCUniversal IP through apps, personalization, and digital content.