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November 2010
Alumni Spotlight: An Ironman in the Steel City

David Mossé, a former corporate associate at Cravath, is the General Counsel of Dick’s Sporting Goods. He talks about the diverse nature of his work for the retail chain.

David Mossé

David I. Mossé
1997-00 & 2002-03

New York University
School of Law, 1997

If you wanted to design a position that offered insight into nearly every department of a growing Fortune 500 company, David Mossé says it would be hard to do better than his job. As the Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Dick’s Sporting Goods (NYSE: DKS), David interacts with every division of the $4 billion corporation, including information technology, human resources, product development, loss prevention, e-commerce, risk management, finance, merchandising and marketing.

“I tell my team we have a unique position in the company because we have a window onto all the different parts of the business. When I help the product development group or the e-commerce group negotiate an agreement, the fact that I’m familiar with how all of the other departments work is extremely useful,” says David.

David came to the Pittsburgh headquarters of Dick’s Sporting Goods last July. He and his wife, Danielle, purchased a 1920s-era home in the city’s popular Shadyside district, and they and their three boys are slowly falling in love with Pittsburgh’s vibrant mix of cultural and outdoor life. As a former Ironman triathlete and all-around outdoor enthusiast, David enjoys practicing law in an industry he feels passionate about. But his favorite part of the job isn’t tied to fishing rods or bicycle spokes, nor does it specifically concern contracts or regulations. Quite simply, David is delighted that his position enables him to work with so many different people at so many different levels—from the Board of Directors to the CEO to his legal team to outside counsel to his colleagues in the Hong Kong office of Dick’s, where the retailer manufactures its own product lines.

“I love the variety of interactions,” he says. “Before coming to Dick’s, I was doing very interesting work and working for very interesting people, but my level of interaction with other folks, either within or outside the company, was not nearly as varied.”

Prior to Dick’s, David served as Senior Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer and Investment Team Member of Trian Partners, an investment advisory firm founded by Nelson Peltz and Peter May and, before that, as Vice President and Assistant General Counsel of Triarc Companies, the franchisor of the Wendy’s and Arby’s restaurant systems. In between his two tenures at Cravath, David also spent several years as a Senior Attorney at the Venture Law Group in Menlo Park, California. David’s varied experiences and transactional savvy enabled him to build a complete skill set—business-minded, practical, team-oriented, decisive—that attracted the executive team of Dick’s.

“Although I had not previously served as a sitting GC, I think the Dick’s team recognized that I was a solid all-around ‘legal athlete,’ a great cultural fit and ready to take that next step,” David says. “That was also a strong reflection of the company’s entrepreneurial spirit, something I valued tremendously in deciding to join.”

Transactions are still expected to be a component of David’s work for Dick’s—over the years, the company has acquired other retailers, including Golf Galaxy, Galyan’s Trading Company and Chick’s Sporting Goods—but he now enjoys a broader, more operationally focused role. With two brands (Dick’s and Golf Galaxy) that have stores in more than 40 states and distinct online businesses and product lines, the areas of law and regulation that the business touches on are quite extensive.

In addition to rolling up his sleeves on key matters, managing his staff and advising the Board and senior management, David also must think strategically about how to build the legal department to position the company for continued and sustainable growth. The retailer now has approximately 25,000 part- and full-time employees and more than 500 stores, and it expects to increase the number of Dick’s stores to at least 900 in the U.S. alone over the next several years.

Sporting goods, David explains, has proved more resilient than other discretionary categories during the recession. “Sports are a source of passion for people, so I think performance athletes and outdoor enthusiasts—who are our primary customers—are less likely to give up these pursuits than say, luxury goods or meals at fancy restaurants,” he says.

A far bigger challenge is finding locations for new Dick’s stores. While it might appear that the recession would create a lot of opportunities in this area, David explains that Dick’s has very specific parameters for the company’s sites, which involve size, co-tenancy, traffic patterns, demographics and, of course, economics, to name a few. The downturn in real estate development has obviously made it more difficult as Dick’s seeks to enter new markets or expand in existing markets. “There isn’t the mass availability of space that you might think,” he says.

As David tackles these and other challenges, he regularly draws on the skills he acquired at Cravath, and he says that all his rotations at the Firm—including mergers and acquisitions, securities and commercial banking—continue to inform his practice. “As general counsel for a large public company, I might need to tap the debt or equity capital markets, seek to sell or buy an asset or put a new credit facility in place,” he says.

After working as a summer associate with Allen Parker in 1996, David started as a regular associate at Cravath in 1997. At the time he arrived, the high-yield securities market was extremely active, and he particularly enjoyed the securities work. “We were able to dig into a lot of different businesses—from telecom to mining to retail. I liked learning in a very short time frame how to synthesize the information for the investor, and the incredible volume of work gave young associates the opportunity to take important, client-facing roles early on,” he says.

The honesty and straightforwardness of his Cravath colleagues also left a strong impression. “The folks I worked for were always very straight up with me, whether I was doing something well or not doing something well. I always knew where I stood and felt like I could be open and honest with them,” he says.

He still keeps in touch with several partners at the Firm, including Scott Barshay, Steve Burns and Mark Greene, to name a few. “Over the years, we have solidified a relationship of respect and mutual admiration. I feel like I can call upon them at any time and vice versa,” he says.

Relationships like these, says David, are the cornerstone of any successful career, and for all his many achievements he is most proud of his ability to develop and maintain these bonds. “It’s great to be part of a huge transaction or do a big deal that is reported on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, but that feeling goes away very quickly. What lasts is the impression that you leave with the people you worked with, and how you treated them.”