It started when Kevin Plank sent financial commentator Jim Cramer a bottle of rye whiskey from the Sagamore Spirit distillery named for the Baltimore County horse farm that the Under Armour CEO also owns.
"I sent back a note saying: 'I thought you were making Under Armour,’” Cramer told TheStreet.com, the financial news site he co-founded.
Cramer said Plank responded with: “I'm done. I'm not going to make any more rye.”
So began an exchange leading to a recent story on TheStreet with a provocative headline: “Under Armour's CEO Just Revealed a Big Secret That Explains Brand's Bad Year.”
The “secret,” according to the story, is that Plank told Cramer that he “‘lost focus’ and let the formerly hot athletic-wear company's performance slide.”
Plank has multiple non-Under Armour interests. Holdings of his investment company, Plank Industries, include commercial real estate, thoroughbred horse racing, a venture capital arm and Sagamore Spirit.
According to TheStreet, Cramer said Plank called and said “‘You're right, I lost focus. ... I apologize. I didn't do it right.’”
“It makes me intrigued when you have a guy who recognizes what he did," Cramer said on the site.
Cramer revisited the subject on CNBC on Monday morning, saying Plank is now “laser-focused.”
“I'm inviting Kevin right now to come on the show,” Cramer said. “He will articulate to you what he articulated to me, which is that ‘I know I’ve missed, I know had too many different units, I know I was not laser focused. That’s over, I am laser focused.’ He’s laser-focused.”
Under Armour said Plank is in China and unavailable for comment.
In a statement, Tom Geddes, CEO of Plank Industries, refuted any notion that Plank is distracted by his non-Under Armour businesses.
The statement did not specifically address Plank’s “I'm not going to make any more rye” remark.
The new distillery is located on the banks of the Patapsco River in Port Covington, where Plank’s private real estate firm has undertaken a massive, mixed-use redevelopment project that will include an Under Armour campus and has been pitched to host Amazon’s second headquarters.
“Kevin has spent very little time on the whiskey business since its founding and its inspiration from Sagamore Farm,” Geddes said in the statement. “Same for the real estate side.”
Geddes said developer Marc Weller “is taking the lead on development and construction in Port Covington. Marc has been the lead from the beginning, and Kevin has no involvement in the day-to-day operations.”
Weller recently formed his own operating company, Weller Development, which will oversee development and construction in Port Covington. The project is a joint venture of Sagamore Development — Plank and Weller’s real estate firm — and Goldman Sachs, the investment banking company that bought into the project in September for $233 million.
Under Armour’s stock price has plunged to its lowest level since the company went public in 2005. Faced with a shifting retail landscape and more competition from online sellers and lower-priced manufacturers, the brand’s sales have slowed.
Cramer seemed impressed by Plank’s response.
“I said, 'Listen, I'm going to go out and say that that's the beginning of when you want to buy a stock,’” Cramer told TheStreet.
This story and its headline were updated to reflect Jim Cramer’s brief comments on Monday about Kevin’s Plank’s focus.