Chairman of Modell's Sporting Goods dies

William Modell was 86.
February 15, 2008 2:37:19 PM PST
William Modell, the head of the family owned Modell's Sporting Goods chain and a philanthropist who donated millions of dollars to medical research including Crohn's disease, has died at age 86.Modell died Thursday at a Manhattan hospital of complications from prostate cancer, the company said Friday.

Modell became chairman of the company in 1985 after taking over from his father, Henry. Under his leadership, the chain grew from four stores to 136 in about a dozen states in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic region. It markets an assortment of athletic apparel, equipment, accessories and footwear.

Last year, the chain's revenues were about $635 million.

The store had a modest beginning when Modell's grandfather, Morris, opened a general store in lower Manhattan in 1889. It thrived after World War II by selling Army surplus merchandise at low prices.

An ardent philanthropist, Modell was a founder or co-founder of a number of medical foundations including Gilda's Club New York. He raised millions of dollars for medical research into Crohn's disease, which claimed the life of his son Michael in 2001.

He also was a founding patron of the Metropolitan Opera House and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and a member of the Friars Club.

Modell won numerous retailing awards and was inducted into the National Sporting Goods Hall of Fame by former President George H.W. Bush.

A resident of Hewlett Harbor on Long Island, Modell is survived by his wife, Shelby, and two children.