Under Armor founder Kevin Plank used Stephanie Ruhle’s advice

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Kevin Plank, now the CEO of Under Armour, in an interview with CNBC on Mad Money on February 28, 2018.

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Under Armour’s founder Kevin Plank formed an unusual relationship with television anchor Stephanie Ruhle that included trips to his private jet, access to confidential company information and a secret phone reserved just for them to communicate, court records show. to show

The records, filed last week in connection with a shareholder lawsuit facing the athletic apparel company in Maryland federal court, show that Ruhle gave , who was a Bloomberg reporter at the time, advised the company when it was facing negative coverage. Ruhle is now an overnight anchor for MSNBC. Plank and Ruhle’s relationship previously appeared in media coverage in 2019.

In January 2016, when Morgan Stanley published a research report that downgraded Under Armour’s stock and lowered its price target, Ruhle asked the apparel company’s executives to provide data that contradicted the report. – and then advised them to send it to media outlets like CNBC.

“[T]its content is perfect just in case someone decides to cover the Morgan [Stanley] thing — it combats the risk of negativity,” Ruhle wrote in the email, according to the filings.

That afternoon, Ruhle questioned the Morgan Stanley report on Bloomberg’s air and referenced data points that Plank had collected.

A few weeks later, when Under Armor reported positive quarterly results, Plank emailed Ruhle “look at that stock!!!” and then helped set up an interview with basketball player and Under Armor athlete Stephen Curry the next day, records show.

Plank, who is the executive chairman of Under Armour, asked his former communications officer, Diane Pelkey, who now works for him. Fogto help set up the interview with Curry.

Plank later told her in an email that Curry’s interview was a “big thank you” to Ruhle “for being the only member of the media that UA got back when [Morgan Stanley] came out against us.”

‘We were friends’

The films raise several ethical questions about both Plank and Ruhle and the boundary that reporters must maintain between the powerful people they cover.

The two were fired earlier this year in connection with a shareholder lawsuit filed in 2017 that alleges Under Armor inflated its share price voluntarily and caused them to lose money.

Asked at the deposition about the Morgan Stanley report, Plank said the two had an “understanding of trust.”

“She didn’t trade in this, her family doesn’t trade in this. She just brings it in for me,” said Plank, adding that it was during the company’s quiet time.

He also described her as “confident” and “someone I can get advice from.”

“I would advise her on her career and she would advise me on things I was dealing with that were either in banking or the media or the human nature of their relationship,” Plank said of their relationship.

Ruhle, for her part, admitted in the deposition that she flew on Plank’s private jet at least twice – once from Cannes, France, to New York and another time from New York to Baltimore.

“We were friends,” Ruhle said. “And I covered his company.”

When asked if the flights on the pier were part of her job as a Bloomberg reporter or as a friend, Ruhle replied: “I was flying on his plane as myself, Stephanie Ruhle. I’m – I’m not really in a one or two category.”

A spokesman for Under Armor said the filings have “no bearing” on the shareholder lawsuit.

“Plaintiffs and their counsel have obvious financial incentives to paint these documents in the most negative light. documents are emerging,” the spokesperson said. “Furthermore, none of the information was used inappropriately.”

As for the shareholders’ lawsuit, the spokesperson said the claims were “without merit” and that they are “vigorously defending them.”

MSNBC, which is not named in the lawsuit and did not employ Ruhle at the time, declined to comment on the matter. Ruhle and Bloomberg did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Disclosure: CNBC and MSNBC are owned by NBCUniversal.

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