An ongoing shareholders lawsuit against Under Armour has revealed new details about the close relationship between MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle and Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank. Court records from a recently unsealed deposition show that Plank considered Ruhle a “confidant” and provided her with a cell phone and secure email address for constant communication. Ruhle, who was working for Bloomberg TV at the time, scored an interview with NBA star Steph Curry as a thank you from Plank. The interview, which aired on Bloomberg in February 2016, included a free-throw shooting contest and discussions about the NBA season and investing. Ruhle also mentioned Curry's relationship with Under Armour and the sales of his sneaker brand in China. This interview came just after Under Armour's stock plummeted following a negative analyst report, and Plank referred to it as a "great thank you" to Ruhle for being the only member of the media to support the brand. Plank even emailed Ruhle a fact sheet to use during her coverage of the report. In addition to the interview, Ruhle's relationship with Plank included multiple flights on Under Armour's private jet.
The Wall Street Journal has also published a report further examining Ruhle's relationship with Plank and the allegations that she used her platform to run damage control for Under Armour. According to court documents, Ruhle was provided with a private phone and special email address to communicate with Plank. The documents reveal that Plank and Ruhle corresponded regularly and that Plank even sent Ruhle a secret recording of a conversation with another top executive at Under Armour. In her recent deposition, Ruhle admitted to offering advice to Plank on banking and media issues. She also discussed her coverage of Under Armour's critical 2016 public relations debacle involving Stephen Curry's signature sneaker. Ruhle denies any wrongdoing and insists that she was simply friends with Plank and covered his company as a journalist.
The shareholders' lawsuit against Under Armour alleges that the company artificially inflated its stock price, resulting in losses for investors. They claim that Plank and other Under Armour executives knew about weak sales figures and enlisted Ruhle to help counter negative publicity. However, Under Armour denies these allegations and vows to vigorously defend against the lawsuit. A federal judge in New York recently denied shareholders' request to force Ruhle to provide her emails, ruling that they are protected by reporter's privilege.
Both Bloomberg News, where Ruhle worked from 2011 to 2016, and MSNBC, her current employer, declined to comment on the situation. Under Armour maintains that Plank used outside advisors, including Ruhle, and insists that none of the information was used improperly. The close ties between Ruhle and Plank, as revealed in court documents, raise concerns about potential conflicts of interest and the ethical boundaries between journalists and the subjects they cover. This case highlights the need for transparency and accountability in the media industry.
themes: Shooting China New York (state)