Chairman of the Board of Modell’s Sporting Goods, William “Bill” Modell, 86, died February 14, 2008, in New York.

A service will be held on Sunday, February 17 at Temple Emanu-El in New York City.

Mr. Modell was born May 13, 1921, in Manhattan Beach, New York, to Henry and Rose Modell.  He attended Peeksville Military Academy and New York University and married his devoted wife Shelby on March 21, 1948.

Bill began his legendary career in business at the age of nine when he sold produce door to door in his neighborhood.  He went on to become a retail icon, launching Modell’s Shopper’s World, the first discount department store chain in the country, which he later sold to Home Depot. 

After returning from military service in the Army’s Ninth Air Corps in 1945, Bill worked with his father Henry to create the Modell Veterans Training Center in lower Manhattan.  The Center helped thousands of unskilled or unemployed World War II veterans prepare for a career in retail. 


In 1955, Bill launched a dramatic expansion program for Modell’s Sporting Goods.  Under his leadership, Modell’s grew from four stores to 136 full-line stores in New York’s tri-state area, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. 


Bill also founded the Long Island Chapter of the Young President’s Organization and the Seawane Country Club in Hewlett Harbor, New York.  In recognition of his achievements, Bill earned several honors and awards, including the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.  He was inducted into the National Sporting Goods Hall of Fame by former President George H. W. Bush in 1994 and subsequently joined Sam Walton by being inducted into the Discount Retail Hall of Fame.  In 1995, he was named National Entrepreneur of the Year by the Entrepreneur Institute and received Crain’s Business “All-Star Award.”  Two years later, he was awarded the Long Island City Business Development Corporation’s “Man of the Year.”

Always a visionary, Bill Modell saw the potential for developing Long Island City.  As a founder of the Long Island City Business Development Corp., he spearheaded the drive to transform Long Island City into a central business district.  In his State of the City address on January 17, 2008, Mayor Bloomberg announced that New York City will develop one million square feet of office space at Queens Plaza.

While Bill’s business acumen led to great success, it was his public service and his humanitarian and philanthropic efforts that gave him the greatest satisfaction in life.

As a public servant, Bill was appointed a member of the Negotiating Committee for the Panama Canal Treaty under President Jimmy Carter.  He was New York City’s Commissioner of Public Affairs for Mayor Abe Beame.  He also was a founding patron of the Metropolitan Opera House and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, a member of the Friars Club and a member of the New York City 100 Year Association.

Bill Modell’s indefatigable commitment to Modell’s Sporting Goods was only matched by his unswerving commitment to philanthropy. 

He was the founder of the American Digestive Disease Society; co-founder of the Jeffrey Modell Foundation for Immunological Research and Hewlett House, a resource center for breast cancer survivors, and a founder of Gilda’s Club New York and Worldwide, a cause to which he was especially dedicated. 


For 40 years, Bill worked hard to find a cure for Crohn’s disease – a disease which claimed his son Michael’s life in 2001.  As a national co-founder of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America and founder of CCFA’s Long Island Chapter and the Gold Coast Chapter, he raised millions of dollars for medical research.  Of the many honors and awards that Bill received, he was above all proud to be a recipient of the Gilda’s Club Magic Award and CCFA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

The center of Bill Modell’s life was his family whom he deeply loved.  He is survived by his wife Shelby, their children Leslie and Mitchell, daughters-in-law Abby and Robin, sister and brother-in-law Doris and Norman Tipograph, and nine grandchildren.

William D. Modell, a brilliant businessman and a great humanitarian, will be missed by all those who were privileged to know and love him.