Real Estate

Federal probe of Under Armour’s accounting unlikely to impact Port Covington progress, Baltimore officials say

Under Armour’s disclosure of a federal accounting probe left some wondering not only about the future of the struggling brand but about the future of the massive South Baltimore development backed by Under Armour’s founder, Kevin Plank.

At Port Covington, a 235-acre formerly industrial waterfront parcel, site preparation is underway for the first phase of a proposed $5.5 billion mini city to be built over decades and eventually house Under Armour’s global headquarters.


Plank’s personal real estate firm, Sagamore Development, assembled the parcels south of Interstate 95 and the Baltimore billionaire envisioned his company as the project’s anchor.

But Plank’s role with Sagamore, Port Covington’s owner along with New York investment bank Goldman Sachs, is separate from his role at Under Armour. Last month, he announced he is stepping down as CEO at the end of the year to take on a new role as executive chairman and a “brand chief.”


“Corporations are treated as entities separate from their owners,” said J.P. Krahel, an associate professor of accounting at Loyola University Maryland’s Sellinger School of Business. “If I own two separate corporations, then at least legally speaking, what happens to one should be distinct from the other.”

On Monday, news of the sports apparel brand’s stronger than expected quarterly profits and progress on a turnaround plan was overshadowed by its confirmation of the accounting investigations by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department. The news caused a stock sell-off, with Under Armour shares plummeting nearly 19 percent Monday. Under Armour said it is cooperating and believes its accounting and disclosures were appropriate.

City officials have said little in response to queries about the development, one of the most ambitious ever for Baltimore and one that stirred controversy three years ago over subsidies in excess of $1 billion, including a pledge of $660 million in bonds to pay for infrastructure.

As the federal investigation continues, “we don’t expect any impact on the Port Covington development,” said Susan Yum, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Development Corp., the city’s economic development arm, in a statement.

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Neither Colin Tarbert, BDC’s president and CEO, or Kimberly Clark, its executive vice president, were made available to comment on the city’s tax increment financing agreement or the timing of the sale of bonds.

Asked whether the investigation could have an impact on the city’s sale of bonds, the TIF agreement or the development timeline, Baltimore City Solicitor Andre Davis responded in an email: “We have no reason to think so, but we’ll certainly be keen to learn what it’s all about.”

At Port Covington, not far from Under Armour’s current headquarters in Locust Point, and where the company has about a fifth of its local workforce in a former Sam’s Club building, site preparation went on as usual last week. Work is underway for the first phase, three apartment buildings, two office buildings, a hotel and a market. The Baltimore Sun leases its printing plant from Sagamore and has its office there.

Under Armour, however, had delayed its plans to build and now has no timeline for moving.


Though Under Armour makes running shoes and sweatshirts and Port Covington will turn out buildings, the two entities are linked in people’s minds because of Plank’s involvement in both.

“It’s not just the government that can influence what’s going to happen,” Krahel said. “If investors lose faith in Under Armour, they may lose faith in Port Covington as well. I hope that doesn’t happen, but the fact that these are separate legal entities doesn’t mean that investors aren’t going to connect the dots.”

“If the investigation turns out badly for the one, it’s going to have a ripple effect on the rest of Kevin Plank’s businesses,” he said.