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Under Armour Founder Unconventional Reliance on TV Anchor Advice Amidst Negative Coverage Revealed in Records



Under Armour Founder Unconventional Reliance on TV Anchor Advice Amidst Negative Coverage Revealed in Records

Under Armour’s founder, Kevin Plank, had an unconventional relationship with television anchor Stephanie Ruhle, involving private jet trips, confidential company information sharing, and a dedicated secret phone for communication, as revealed in recently filed court records. These records are connected to a shareholder lawsuit faced by the athletic apparel company in a Maryland federal court. The nature of Plank and Ruhle’s relationship had been previously reported in 2019.

During January 2016, when Morgan Stanley released a research report downgrading Under Armour’s stock, Ruhle, then a Bloomberg reporter, reached out to the company’s executives for data that could counter the report’s claims. She suggested sending this data to media outlets like CNBC. In an email exchange with Diane Pelkey, a former Under Armour communications executive, Ruhle requested “official” figures and proposed that Pelkey disseminate these data points to counteract potential negative coverage. Pelkey agreed, saying she would push positive messages.

Later that day, Ruhle questioned the Morgan Stanley report on Bloomberg’s broadcast and referred to data points provided by Plank. A few weeks afterward, when Under Armour reported positive quarterly results, Plank emailed Ruhle with excitement about the stock’s performance. He also assisted her in arranging an interview with basketball player Stephen Curry, an Under Armour athlete.

Plank, who serves as Under Armour’s current executive chairman, asked Pelkey to help organize the Curry interview, which he considered a gesture of gratitude to Ruhle for supporting the company during the Morgan Stanley incident. Plank referred to Ruhle as a “confidant” and explained that they exchanged advice on various matters.

These court filings raise ethical concerns about the relationship between Plank and Ruhle, blurring the boundaries that reporters must maintain with the individuals they cover. Both were deposed in connection with a shareholder lawsuit that alleges Under Armour manipulated its share price. Plank justified their relationship, stating they had a foundation of trust, and he viewed Ruhle as someone who offered counsel.

Ruhle admitted to flying on Plank’s private jet twice and acknowledged having three phones during their association – a work phone, a personal phone, and a dedicated “Kevin Plank phone” for their communications.

A spokesperson for Under Armour dismissed the relevance of these filings to the underlying shareholder lawsuit, attributing negative interpretations to plaintiffs and their counsel. The spokesperson emphasized that Plank sought advice from various outside advisors and no information was misused. The spokesperson also referred to the shareholder lawsuit as baseless and being vigorously contested. MSNBC, not implicated in the lawsuit and not Ruhle’s employer at the time, declined to comment. Requests for comments from Ruhle and Bloomberg went unanswered.

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