According to new details from the depositions of Under Armour founder Kevin Plank and MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle filed last week, the two’s years-long relationship was more dubious and unethical than previously thought. Their own testimony details how Ruhle was gifted a phone for private correspondents and was funneled insider information about Under Armour’s business dealings.
The deposition was taken in relation to an ongoing dispute between Under Armour and its shareholders over accusations the company overstated its stock’s value.
“Plank and Ruhle were questioned by lawyers earlier this year in connection with a shareholder lawsuit, and portions of their depositions and some of their emails were recently unsealed in court,” The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
The new reporting details how the two “corresponded regularly and at all hours” via a special cell phone Plank gave to Ruhle with a secret e-mail address just for her. In his deposition, Plank claimed he gifted her these things because “she’s a confidant” and vice versa. “I would give her counsel on her career and she would give me counsel on things I was dealing with that were either banking or media or human nature in relation,” he testified.
For Ruhle’s part, she told investigators that they were just “friends” and she “covered his company” for work (she was a reporter for Bloomberg at the time). When asked about the international trips she took with Plank on the company’s private jet and whether she was there as a friend or for work, she gave this mealy-mouthed answer: “I was flying on his plane as myself, Stephanie Ruhle. I’m not really in a category one or the other.”
She was even privy to a conversation Plank secretly recorded with another Under Armour executive:
A year later, in April 2016, Plank sent an audio recording to Ruhle of a conversation he recorded between himself and another Under Armour executive in which he called the company’s then-chief financial officer a “motherf—” for suggesting lower revenue projections.
Plank told lawyers in his deposition that he made the recording without asking the other executive for permission, and he sent the recording, which contained nonpublic information about Under Armour, to Ruhle without alerting the company’s board. He attached it to a two-word email to Ruhle that read, “My night.”
In 2016, after Morgan Stanley downgraded Under Armour’s stock, Ruhle apparently played a key role in helping to push back on the negative news with their talking points. “She went on air at Bloomberg that afternoon and questioned the data in the Morgan Stanley report, mirroring some of the bullet points that Plank later shared in an email that day as a preview of what he planned to send to other outlets,” The Journal added.
Ruhle was promptly rewarded with an interview with one of Under Armour’s athlete spokesmen: basketball player Stephen Curry. Plank called it “a great thank you for being the only member of media to get UA’s back when [Morgan Stanley] came out against us” in a message to the company’s communications executive.
This wasn’t the first time Plank and Ruhle’s relationship had been in the Wall Street Journal’s spotlight. In 2019, sources with contemporary connections to Under Armour told the paper that it was understood that the duo were “romantically involved” despite both of them being married.
Ruhle did host her show, The 11th Hour Tuesday night but she did not make any comments about the reporting. According to The Journal, Ruhle, MSNBC, and Bloomberg had not responded to their request for comment. They’re seemingly undisturbed by Ruhle’s unethical relationship with a source and target of their coverage.