Dick’s Sporting Goods Sues Modell’s CEO For Allegedly Posing As Dick’s VP

(top: analogkid281; bottom: Consumerist)

(top: analogkid281; bottom: consumerist)

When you think of corporate espionage and snooping, you probably think of big manufacturers — electronics, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, packaged food — trying to learn what the competition is working on. One industry that is unlikely to come to mind is retail sporting goods.

But a lawsuit recently filed by the folks at Dick’s Sporting Goods accuses Mitchell Modell, CEO of Modell’s Sporting Goods of posing as a Dick’s Vice President to gain access to the company’s secrets.

Modell, who had previously done the in-disguise thing at his own company for an episode of CBS’s Undercover Boss, allegedly presented himself a Sr. VP to employees at a Dick’s store in Princeton, NJ, on Feb. 8.

According to the suit, filed in a New Jersey state court in Mercer County, Modell told the store manager he had an appointment to meet Dick’s CEO Edward Stack at the store, then talked employees into giving him a tour of the employees-only portion of the store while chatting about things they should not have discussed with anyone outside the store, let alone the CEO of a competitor.

The complaint claims that during his visit, Modell asked store employees about Dick’s “ship from store” program that fulfills online orders using inventory from local stores.

Dick’s accuses Modell of civil conspiracy and trespass and is seeking unspecified damages and attorney fees. It also seeks an injunction barring Modell and his employees from entering the non-public areas of any Dick’s store, or posing as a Dick’s employee.

There’s nothing illegal about Modell visiting a Dick’s store. It’s good for a CEO to be on the ground to get a first-hand view of the competition. But it’s one thing to put on a pair of sunglasses and pretend you’re just another customer; it’s another to lie about your identity.

“I’ve been on tens of thousands of store visits by CEOs. This I’ve never seen,” one head of a national retail consulting firm told NorthJersey.com.

For those unfamiliar with Modell’s, it is one of the oldest sporting goods stores in the country, having been founded in 1889 in Manhattan. It runs about 150 stores, primarily in the New York City-Philadelphia corridor.

Dick’s has more than three times the number of locations as Modell’s and has been increasing its presence in areas that have long been dominated by Modell’s.

Modell’s CEO accused of undercover spying by rival sporting goods chain [NorthJersey.com]