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Originally published Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Hasbro eliminating jobs at Cranium

About 40 Cranium employees will be laid off as Hasbro takes control of the Seattle board-game company, but 20 others will keep their jobs...

Seattle Times business reporter

About 40 Cranium employees will be laid off as Hasbro takes control of the Seattle board-game company, but 20 others will keep their jobs.

Pawtucket, R.I.-based Hasbro said Monday that it will retain about a third of Cranium's staff in Seattle. Most of those staying are designers and marketers, while the 40 jobs being eliminated are in finance, logistics and sales.

The layoffs will take effect over the next two months, said Phil Jackson, who oversees Hasbro's games business as a group executive.

Hasbro promises laid-off employees a "comprehensive and competitive severance package." Some will have the chance to apply for jobs elsewhere with Hasbro, including its 380-employee Wizards of the Coast division in Renton, the company said.

Hasbro bought privately held Cranium for $69 million on Jan. 25. Cranium's Seattle work force numbered 80 when the deal was announced in early January but has since shrunk to 60 as employees left for other opportunities, Hasbro spokesman Wayne Charness said.

Hasbro's Rhode Island headquarters and its Massachusetts-based games division will absorb the work done by the 40 workers losing their jobs, Hasbro said.

Cranium was started in Seattle in 1998 by two former Microsoft workers who wanted to offer an alternative to the winner-take-all approach of many board games. They came up with a game whose motto is "Everyone Shines," because players use many skills, including sketching, acting, humming and sculpting.

Cranium went on to add other games, including Hullabaloo, Cariboo and Cadoo. The company won the Game of the Year award from the Toy Industry Association five times.

Co-founder Richard Tait left Cranium a couple of weeks ago. Whit Alexander, Cranium's other co-founder, remains as a consultant through June.

Cranium occupies the sixth floor of an office building near First Avenue and Lenora Street in downtown Seattle. Jackson said Hasbro has not made up its mind on whether it will stay at the current location, though it will remain in "Seattle proper."

"We're committed to Seattle because we think the Seattle culture is integral to the success of the Cranium brand so far," Jackson said.

Hasbro ranks as the world's largest distributor of board and card games with a portfolio that includes Monopoly, Clue and Scrabble. Cranium distributed a handful of its 40-plus games, books and toys to about 20 countries outside the U.S. and Canada as of January.

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"We think there's a huge opportunity and upside for Cranium globally," Jackson said.

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923

or amartinez@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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