Sporting Goods Spy Game

So this is a new one. According to a lawsuit filed by national sporting-goods retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc.. Mitch Modell, the high-profile CEO of rival company Modell’s Sporting Goods, posed as a Dick’s executive when visiting a Dick’s store. Modell’s is a leading sporting-goods retailer in the Northeast, from which I bought plenty of sports equipment when growing up in New York.

By allegedly pretending to be a Dick’s Vice President, Modell gained access to private areas of the Dick’s store. Supposedly, Modell wanted information about Dick’s e-commerce initiatives, including Dick’s “ship from store” program that uses local stores to fulfill online orders.

This is remarkable. Modell is a visible figure, particularly in the sporting-goods industry. For example, he starred in an episode of Undercover Boss. That he would (allegedly) attempt such a scheme is crazy, and is a vivid illustration of the corporate-espionage risk that companies face.

This case shows that companies need to have a clear policy restricting access to nonpublic areas, and all employees need to be trained about the policy. For example, all nonpublic areas should be locked, with video surveillance where possible. All visitors given access to these areas should sign a log. And a company could issue all employees photo IDs, and require that employees call headquarters to confirm any unannounced employee/corporate visit before allowing access to nonpublic areas.

I’m very curious to hear Modell’s defense.

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