There are two new head toy makers at Little Tikes and Step2.
Little Tikes, headquartered in Hudson, now is run by Bill Cofield, vice president of operations locally and at a European manufacturing facility in Poland. Also new to the company is Brian Aiken, vice president of design and engineering.
The two, who will split time between the Hudson Little Tikes headquarters and the Los Angeles headquarters of parent company MGA Entertainment, will work together to design and manufacture toys.
At Step2 in Streetsboro, Tom Doherty is serving as acting chief executive officer and president after the company’s recent restructuring under a new owner. He said Step2, which had been owned by the private investment firm Liberty Partners, was purchased in March by one of its longtime investors, Ares Capital.
Ares, a specialty finance company, is a $75 billion entity with ownership in Nieman Marcus.
At Little Tikes, Cofield, 53, replaces Tom Richmond, former Little Tikes general manager/MGA executive president, who joined the toy company in 2008. Richmond, who joined Little Tikes and MGA after years in the plastics industry, left the company recently to spend more time with his family, Cofield said.
Cofield is an Ohio native — from Middletown — and said he is happy to be back in the state after 39 years. He spent 10 years working for labeling and packaging company Avery Dennison and the past nine years with Newell Rubbermaid in Charlotte, N.C., as the vice president of operations.
He said he’s familiar with the Akron area, as one of his responsibilities was Rubbermaid’s manufacturing plant in Mogadore.
While Cofield said he has no toy industry experience, his expertise “is operations and working with people and equipment to get the job done.” He’s a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., and a 10-year Army veteran.
Cofield said he will collaborate with Aiken, 50, who will be in charge of the toy design teams in Hudson and Los Angeles. Both men started at Little Tikes within the past two weeks.
Aiken is a 27-year toy industry veteran, most recently with Fisher Price, where he spent 20 years. He left in October as director of product development for the licensing business to start his own company before being recruited to Little Tikes.
Both men said Little Tikes’ potential and its passionate employees attracted them.
Little Tikes “is a recognizable brand that has great potential. This was a brand that was brought back to life and will grow,” Aiken said. “The people here in Hudson are passionate about the brand and have been here for a number of years.”
At Step2, Doherty replaces Jack Vresics, who took over in 2010 after having served as general manager of Infantino, a California maker of infant toys and accessories.
Doherty also will run Infantino.
Vresics left the company about a month after the purchase by Ares Capital, and Doherty said the board asked him to step in.
He is a managing director at Argus Management Corp., a Grafton, Mass., firm that provides interim management and financial advisory services for companies. According to his biography on the company’s website, Doherty has led over 200 “engagements” in various roles since joining Argus in 1986.
In a telephone interview from Streetsboro, Doherty said he will stay at Step2 as long as the board needs him. His stints in various roles have been as short as three months and as long as three years, he said. He will be working out of Streetsboro while commuting from Boston.
Argus is “pretty excited about owning the company and look at it as a long-term ownership play,” said Doherty, 55. “They are very supportive and invested money in the company at the same time.”
Doherty said he did not have any experience in the toy industry, but has run several companies.
“We’ve got a lot of great people who know what kids like and know how to build a product kids will enjoy. It’s pretty exciting,” he said.
Doherty said his goal is “getting back to basics. This company has had a tremendous history of bringing great products. We’re focusing back on product and innovation.”
Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blinfisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty