It appears Nike isn’t the only sports apparel giant making headlines for the wrong reasons this morning.
The Wall Street Journal is out with a story today that links Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank with MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle.
According to WSJ, Plank and Ruhle “have developed close ties in recent years,” and Plank has been taking Ruhle’s advice regarding the company’s strategy with a bit more seriousness than that of his own management team.
The Journal writes:
Executives said Mr. Plank took Ms. Ruhle’s advice rather than management’s on how to handle consumer backlash over a key sneaker model in 2016. She also gave advice on how he should engage with President Trump in 2017 that was at odds with some executives who urged Mr. Plank to keep his distance.
Ruhle also may have helped Under Armour via her on air platform:
When Under Armour revealed a new sneaker for Mr. Curry, its biggest basketball star, the week of June 6, 2016, some consumers started on June 9 to ridicule the all-white “Chef Curry” shoes on social media.
Under Armour employees wanted to react on social media in the first 24 hours, but were asked to hold off on addressing the issue publicly because Ms. Ruhle said she would step in and discuss the shoes on TV, the people said. The sportswear company didn’t respond on its Twitter account on June 9 or June 10. Ms. Ruhle discussed the shoes that weekend on an NBC show.
Under Armour remarked that its response wasn’t unusual and it sent sneakers to Ms. Ruhle and other influencers to discuss them on TV.
“The idea that Mr. Plank uniquely listens to any one individual is absurd,” Kelley McCormick, Under Armour’s svp of comms, told the Journal.
Plank, who has befriended many celebrities and high-profile media figures over the years as Under Armour has grown since its 1996 launch, reportedly has also used his privately owned plane, which Under Armour leases for company use, to transport the MSNBC news anchor with him to various locations.
The Journal writes:
Mr. Plank used the private jet to transport Ms. Ruhle, the people familiar with the matter said. For example, Ms. Ruhle flew with Mr. Plank and Under Armour staff to or from Cannes, Amsterdam and Austin, Texas. On trips from Cannes in 2015 and 2016, the plane stopped in Teterboro, N.J., and dropped off Ms. Ruhle, according to these people and flight records. Under Armour said other executives also disembarked at Teterboro on both trips.
Apparently some UA employees viewed her input as unusual, or “problematic,” and the company’s board became aware of Plank’s relationship with Ruhle after it discovered emails that “showed an intimate relationship between them.”
As part of a board investigation, Plank told members that the Ruhle friendship was a private matter and that no company funds were spent. It couldn’t be determined if the board took further action.
This is all according to the Journal’s sources.
Ruhle was a managing director at Deutsche Bank before becoming a TV newser. She joined Bloomberg TV in 2011 and then MSNBC more than two years ago. She interviewed Plank a number of times while she was a host at Bloomberg.
Ruhle, a news anchor and not an opinion host, should probably address this on air. Perhaps she will during the 1 p.m. hour, which she co-hosts with Ali Velshi.
MSNBC declined comment on the story.