Stock Split and the Failure of a Shareholder Democracy

underarmourBy Joe Davison

Background: Since its founding, Under Armour has maintained a dual-class stock structure consisting of Class A Stock, which has been entitled to one vote per share, and Class B Stock, which has been entitled to ten votes per share. Founder and CEO, Kevin Plank, beneficially owns all of the company’s Class B Stock and also owned a small portion of the Class A Stock. As of June, this provided Mr. Plank with 65.5% of the company’s total voting power, but only 16.6% of the total number of outstanding shares. Under the terms of Under Armour’s charter, if the aggregate number of shares of Class A Stock and Class B Stock owned by Mr. Plank is less than 15% of the total number of shares, the dual-class structure will unwind and all Class B Stock would be automatically converted in to Class A stock. This would result in Mr. Plank effectively losing control of Under Armour.

In November 2014, Mr. Plank reviewed his current ownership of Class B Stock with Under Armour’s Board of Directors and requested that the Board evaluate the creation and issuance of a class of non-voting common stock. The Board authorized a Special Committee to consider such a class of non-voting common stock, and to evaluate and make a recommendation to the Board as to whether and on what terms to proceed. The Special Committee recognized that the Company has been well-served by allowing Mr. Plank and management to focus on long-term value creation without distraction. Accordingly, the Special Committee informed Mr. Plank that it would recommend the creation of a Class C Stock and a Class C Dividend. The Dividend would distribute one new share of the non-voting stock for every existing share of Class A and Class B stock. This would allow shareholders to sell the Class C stock without losing any of their voting power. Continue reading