Back in 2019, lawyers leading a shareholder suit against Under Armour, the sports apparel company, stumbled across a Wall Street Journal story with the unusually provocative headline: Meet Under Armour CEO’s Unusual Adviser: An MSNBC Anchor. Kevin Plank, the executive in question, had been accused by shareholders of committing securities fraud by misrepresenting consumer demand for the company’s sportswear between 2015 and 2019. During this time, the Journal reported, Plank was occasionally accompanied on a corporate jet by Bloomberg anchor-turned-MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle, who offered informal business and media counsel. Ruhle also reported on the company from time to time.
Ruhle, of course, is an unusual hybrid in business news. As a former managing director at Deutsche Bank, she distinguished herself as one of the rare anchors who had spent years in the trenches on Wall Street. Her swift ascent in journalism owed, in large part, to that hard-earned first-hand experience, real financial acuity, and rolodex. She was also a voice of clarity for public market C.E.O.s dealing with the complexity of the Trump years. In the cutthroat world of television bookings, anchors have been known to forge relationships with the people they cover, and even sometimes on private planes.
Nevertheless, those flights triggered the Under Armour board to look into potential misuse of company resources. (Under Armour leased a jet from a company Plank owned.) But the shareholder lawyers were enticed by a different angle. During her tenure at Bloomberg, in 2016, Ruhle had discussed on air a Morgan Stanley report that had previously caused Under Armour’s share price to tumble. Ruhle has been dismissive of the report, noting it was based on incomplete and premature sales figures, and referring to Under Armour as a “long-term buy.”