Mattel CFO Kevin Farr Talks Toys, Industry Challenges with Marshall MBA Students

mattel usc

Last month, USC Marshall School of Business MBAs had a chance to meet one of the top leaders in the toy industry, Kevin Farr. The CFO of Mattel stopped by Marshall to spend time with Suh-Pyng Ku corporate finances classes and share the challenges he’s faced at Mattel.

According to the Marshall website, Farr led an hour-long discussion, in which he walked students through the toy company’s 2014 acquisition of MEGA, a Canadian toy manufacturer known for Mega Bloks. The $460 million acquisition would help Mattel compete with market leader Lego and create new products aimed at older children. The move thrust Mattel into the number two position in the construction toy category by growing subsidiary in international markets across the globe.

“Start with the strategic rationale for the acquisition and then focus on getting the economics of the deal right,” Farr said. “If this were your own money, would you do it? An acquisition needs to be the right thing, at the right time, and at the right price.”

Farr, who stepped down from his role at the end of September after more than 17 years with the company, explained that Mergers & Acquisitions have been a growth driver for Mattel, as the toy has made moves to purchase Fisher-Price, American Girl, and Thomas the Tank Engine brands in the past.

The Marshall MBAs asked Farr how MBA students can work their way into the C-Suite. “You can’t do it all yourself,” he said. “It’s not sustainable. You have to surround yourself with a team of smart people to get things done over the long term.”

Farr says he enjoys coming to classrooms to speak with students. “We hire a lot of MBA students from Marshall,” he said. “They’re very smart, very innovative and have a lot of executive presence. So it’s just part of a continuous smart team building strategy for Mattel to make the time to come in and engage with them.”

Ku’s students seemed to enjoy Farr’s visit as well.

“It was truly one of the highlights of the semester for Mr. Kevin Farr to visit our corporate finance class,” said George Tonner, MBA ’19. “As an in-the-trenches practitioner, Mr. Farr has personally made the kinds of challenging business decisions we study in the classroom.”


About the Author

Max Pulcini

Max Pulcini is a Philadelphia-based writer and reporter. He has an affinity for Philly sports teams, Super Smash Bros. and cured meats and cheeses. Max has written for Philadelphia-based publications such as Spirit News, Philadelphia City Paper, and Billy Penn, as well as national news outlets like The Daily Beast.

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