Cable TV host Stephanie Ruhle got an interview with NBA star and Under Armor pitcher Steph Curry less than a month after she endorsed the sports brand after a negative analyst report downgraded the stock, according to court documents.
The MSNBC host was working for Bloomberg TV at the time she scored the meeting with the Golden State Warriors sniper as a “thank you” from Under Armor CEO Kevin Plank, according to new details from an ongoing shareholder lawsuit against the company.
Court documents from a testimony unsealed last week shed more light on the ties between Plank, the 51-year-old Maryland billionaire who founded Under Armor, and the former business journalist who currently hosts “The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle” on MSNBC.
Plank called Ruhle, 47, a “confidant,” whom he gave a cell phone and a secure email address so she could communicate with him 24 hours a day, according to court records. She also flew with Plank on a private jet several times, the complaint said.
Another revelation from the statement included Plank arranging the February 2016 interview between Ruhle and Curry, whose Curry brand is part of a long-term partnership with the sportswear giant.
In the 30 minute excerpt aired on BloombergRuhle and Curry engaged in a free-throw shooting competition, discussed the grueling NBA season and exchanged views on investments.
Ruhle — who worked at Bloomberg from 2011 to March 2016 before joining MSNBC later that year — also mentioned Curry’s relationship with Under Armor and the sale of his sneaker brand in China.
The interview followed Under Armor’s stock plunge of more than 8% on Jan. 11, 2016, after analysts at Morgan Stanley issued a report a day earlier downgrading the stock to “Underweight” due to falling sales.
Plank emailed Diane Pelkey, who was his chief communications officer at the time, stating that the Curry interview was “a huge thank you for that.” [Ruhle] as the only member of the media to get [Under Armour’s] back if [the Morgan Stanley report] spoke out against us,” the court documents said.
He added that he hopes other media outlets “would pay attention and show more love (even when push comes to shove!),” according to emails cited in court documents.
On the day the stock plummeted, Plank — who stepped down as Under Armor CEO in 2019 but currently serves as executive chairman — had emailed Under Armor employees with the subject line “Morgan [S]Tanley,” the court filings say.
Plank wanted to schedule a call with staff to “discuss strategy.” [Under Armour’s] Media friends and other analysts are working to disprove this [the Morgan Stanley] report,” according to court documents.
That same day, Plank Ruhle emailed a “fact sheet” that Under Armor “planned to send to ALL media to arm them for any discussion” of the Morgan-Stanley report, the court filing said.
“[P]Please let me know if you’re missing anything here,” Plank allegedly wrote in an email to Ruhle — according to court documents.
During Ruhle’s appearance on her afternoon Bloomberg show, the host appeared to cast doubt on Morgan Stanley’s report, saying a member of the “Bloomberg Intelligence Team” “stayed on.”[ed] “Very optimistic” about Under Armor, court documents say.
She told her audience that Under Armor was a “long-term purchase” and that it was “very early to actually evaluate sales,” the filing said.
Ruhle praised Under Armor for making “major strides” in incorporating technology into its products, noting that the company’s endorsement deals include superstar athletes like Curry, NFL legend Tom Brady and skier Lindsey Vonn Signs are that “they are clearly picking winners.”
Shareholders sued Under Armor in a Maryland federal court in 2017, alleging that the company artificially inflated its shares by misleading investors about poor sales numbers.
Their attempt to force Bloomberg to provide Ruhle’s emails was dismissed by a federal judge in New York last Friday, according to the Journal.
“There is absolutely no evidence that Ruhle was accepted for this interview for her coverage and, more importantly, there is no evidence that Under Armor controlled Ruhle’s coverage of the Morgan Stanley story ‘ wrote US Judge Gabriel Gorenstein of the Southern District of New York.
A spokesman for Bloomberg News declined to comment when The Post reached him.
The Post has also solicited comment from Under Armor and Ruhle’s current employer, MSNBC, a Comcast corporation.
Under Armor has promised to dismiss the lawsuit.