Under Armour’s founder, Kevin Plank, established a unique connection with television anchor Stephanie Ruhle, involving private jet trips, access to confidential company data, and a secretive phone dedicated to their communication, according to court records submitted in relation to a shareholder lawsuit. The records reveal that Ruhle, who was previously a Bloomberg reporter and now works as a nighttime anchor for MSNBC, offered advice to Under Armour during instances of negative coverage.
The court documents detail an incident in January 2016 when Morgan Stanley downgraded Under Armour’s stock and lowered its price target. Ruhle contacted the company’s executives for data that could counter the report and suggested distributing it to media outlets like CNBC. She requested “official” numbers from Under Armour’s communications executive Diane Pelkey, who is currently the head of communications at Chewy. Ruhle then recommended sharing the data points to combat any negative coverage.
Pelkey agreed to the suggestion, responding, “Will push positive messages out. Thanks!” Following this, Ruhle questioned the Morgan Stanley report on Bloomberg and referenced data points provided by Plank.
Plank, who now serves as the executive chairman of Under Armour, reached out to Ruhle through emails, expressing enthusiasm about positive quarterly results and assisting in arranging an interview with Under Armour athlete Stephen Curry. Plank credited Ruhle as the only member of the media who supported Under Armour during the Morgan Stanley incident.
The disclosures in the court filings raise ethical concerns about the boundaries between influential individuals like Plank and reporters like Ruhle. Both were deposed earlier this year for a shareholder lawsuit alleging that Under Armour artificially inflated its share price, resulting in financial losses for shareholders.
Plank defended his relationship with Ruhle, describing an “understanding of trust” and referring to her as a “confidant” from whom he sought counsel. Ruhle, on the other hand, admitted to flying on Plank’s private jet and acknowledged having a dedicated phone for communications with Plank.
The spokesperson for Under Armour stated that the filings have no impact on the underlying shareholder lawsuit and that Mr. Plank had sought advice from various outside advisors. The spokesperson further dismissed any improper use of information. As for the shareholder lawsuit, the spokesperson deemed the claims “meritless” and being vigorously defended.
MSNBC and Bloomberg declined to comment on the matter.