Once upon a time, Mitch Modell, CEO of Modell's Sporting Goods, pretended to be a walrus and learned what it was like to be a poorly-paid Modell's employee (without actually being poorly-paid) for an episode of Undercover Boss. Now, according to a suit filed by sporting goods store Dick's, Modell is pretending to be a Dick's executive in order to get confidential information about Dick's.
In a complaint filed in state Superior Court in Mercer County on Feb. 20, Dick's Sporting Goods claims Modell visited one of its stores in Princeton on Feb. 8 and pretended to be a senior vice president of Dick's who was collecting information about the store.
Modell allegedly told a store manager he had an appointment to meet Dick's CEO Edward Stack at the store and persuaded employees to show him around the store's private back areas and answer questions about store operations.
Modell was apparently interested in learning about a new ship-from-store program Dick's is using to expedite online orders and decided to take the normal, accepted corporate espionage up a notch. While executives visit rival stores all the time, according to a "retail consultant," this level of snooping is unheard of.
"I've been on tens of thousands of store visits by CEOs. This I've never seen," said [Howard] Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, a national retail consulting and investment banking firm based in New York City.
Dick's has asked the court for money damages and an injunction that would bar Modell and his employees from any non-public area of Dick's. They are also asking the court to prevent Modell's from using any of the information gleaned from the February visit.