Cam Newton surprises Under Armour shareholders

Heisman Trophy winner drops by annual meeting

May 03, 2011|By Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun

Nick Tilson was happy enough Tuesday to be at the annual meeting of Under Armour, his favorite sportswear company, but the 11-year-old was in for an even bigger treat.

"Who is your favorite college player?" Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank asked Tilson, singling him out of the crowd.

"It was Cam Newton," Tilson said, astutely remembering that Newton, Heisman Trophy winner and former quarterback at Auburn University, had recently been picked up by the Carolina Panthers NFL team and was no longer a college player.

Tilson of Eldersburg — likely one of Under Armour's younger shareholders — received shares in the company as a Christmas present from his parents three years ago.

Plank looked toward the back of the room and Newton himself came forward, pumping his arms in the air as if he'd just won a football game.

Newton, who signed an endorsement deal with the Baltimore company in February, was in town to shoot a television commercial to promote a new cotton sweat shirt. The shirt, called Storm Cotton, is a new, water-resistant product, designed to keep athletes dry during workouts. Under Armour plans to bring it to market in the fall.

Newton towered above Plank, wearing a black-and-red version of the new Storm Cotton hooded sweat shirt. Plank peppered him with questions about what he'd been doing in the offseason and why he'd decided to join the Under Armour team.

Newton said deciding which athletic company to sign with was like being recruited by colleges all over again. He said he visited Reebok, Adidas and other companies to see what they had to offer.

In the end, Under Armour appealed to him most because he liked the company's vision for the future and appreciated that he could always reach Plank by phone. Newton joked about how rumors had spread that he would sign with Under Armour before he'd made his decision.

"Y'all have seen just the appetizer of where this company is going to go," Newton said.

Under Armour executives used the annual meeting to update shareholders on the company's performance. The meeting was held in a showroom at the company's Tide Point headquarters, where the latest products hung from the walls.

"We are still very much a growth company," Plank told the crowd. "What keeps us on the rise is innovation."

The company, known in the past for calling cotton the "enemy," introduced its first cotton T-shirt this year. Plank said the T-shirt, which was launched in limited supply, was selling well, but he did not provide specific numbers.

"We never hated cotton," Plank told the crowd. "We hated the fact that cotton didn't perform."

Plank showed the crowd a new device that is being tested, which measures athletes' heart rate, speed and other vital signs as they work out. The device, called the E39, created a lot of buzz during the recent NFL Combine, which Under Armour sponsored.

Shareholders voted in favor of the compensation packages awarded to Under Armour executives. This was the first year under federal law that shareholders were given a chance to have their say on the compensation packages of executives of public companies.

These "say on pay" votes are advisory in nature but enable shareholders to send a strong signal to top management and board members.

Under Armour shareholders also voted to be able to review salaries once a year.

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