Kevin Plank Bio: Turning Hatred of Sweaty T-Shirts Into a Billion-Dollar Business

Kevin Plank is a shining example of an entrepreneur who made it to the top without inheriting millions, receiving diplomas from prestigious schools, or spending years learning and gaining experience. All it took was a smart business model and perseverance.

He built his brand, Under Armour, around the idea of creating comfortable, better absorbing sportswear accessible to everyone. Thanks to his energy and courage, it grew into a billion-dollar enterprise and one of the world’s top five in its niche.

What makes him one of the most influential business operators, and what can we learn from the story of his success? Let’s take a closer look at Kevin Plank’s accomplishments and even some failures to find out more.

Kevin Plank Quick Facts

Full Name: Kevin Audette Plank  
Birth Date: August 13, 1972  
Birth Place: Kensington, Maryland, U.S.  
Nick Name:  
Nationality: American  
Siblings: Scott Plank, Stuart Plank, Colin Harper Plank, Bill Plank  
Children: Katherine Plank, Kevin James Plank  
Partner / Spouse: Desiree Jacqueline Guerzon (m. 2003)  
Profession: Businessman and philanthropist  
Salary: $6 million annual compensation (including salary, bonus, and stocks)  
Net Worth: $1.5 billion  
Social Media: Instagram: ​​@kevinplank96, LinkedIn: @Kevin-Plank  
Companies Associated With: Under Armour  
Last Updated: June 2022  

Kevin Plank’s Key Facts Summary

  • His mother was a prominent politician, and his father was a land developer.
  • Kevin graduated in 1996, achieving a bachelor’s degree in business administration, although he hated school and never excelled as a student.
  • Before starting a fashion retail business, he had several other jobs, including selling flowers and parking cars.
  • In 1996, he established Under Armour, a sports brand that grew into a billion-dollar business during the upcoming decades.
  • Kevin Plank’s net worth is currently around $1.5 billion.
  • His annual earnings are around $6 million, including salary, bonuses, and stocks.
  • Kevin Plank is married with two kids.
  • ​​In 2003, he ranked No. 4 on America’s 20 Most Powerful CEOs 40 and Under
  • His public endorsement of Donald Trump (although later revoked) and relationship with TV anchor Stephanie Ruhle are considered controversial.
  • In 2019, he stepped down as Under Armour’s CEO but remains chairman of the company and keeps both executive and creative roles.

Kevin Plank’s Birthplace and Early Life

Kevin Audette Plank was born on August 13, 1972, in Kensington, Maryland, to Jayne Harper Plank and William Plank. Kevin is one of five sons of the pair. His mother was a politician (former mayor of Kensington), and his father was a reputable land developer.

Kevin always loved sport, playing football first with the youth team of Maplewood Sports Association, later at Fork Union Military Academy, and at the age of 23, even landing the role of captain of the football team for the University of Maryland.

Although he had the ambition to continue playing professionally, he was never drafted by a top-tier team. Nevertheless, the sport predetermined his future anyway.

As a student, Kevin struggled both academically and regarding his behavior. Later in interviews, he admitted that he never really cared about school and often got into trouble.

After being involved in a drunken fight, he was even kicked out of the prestigious Georgetown Preparatory School. He later graduated from another private school, St. John’s College High School. Apparently, he liked this school a lot since he donated $16 million to his alma mater in 2015.

All in all, however, Kevin never dreamed about achieving higher education. It seems like he always had his mind set on entrepreneurship instead, trying his luck with various smaller projects (including a seasonal flower business, parking cars, and selling bracelets) before establishing his brand.

Kevin Plank’s Early Career and Business Success

The world of sports brands is a highly competitive environment. Moreover, it is also a market where reputation and tradition matter greatly, making it nearly impossible for new players to break through.

But Kevin Plank dared to try. After all, he knew the sports environment pretty well, and he had a serious plan.

Under Armour

Recalling his active years in football, Kevin Plank says he always hated how sweaty he felt during the training — stating he was usually the sweatiest guy on the team. He despised the wet and heavy cotton T-shirts traditionally worn by the players and dreamed of an alternative.

When searching for a business plan, he substantiated this idea in what would soon become one of the world’s top five sports apparel brands.

From loans to billions

Kevin Plank set his mind on creating a sports brand that would revolutionize active clothes. By introducing new materials with exceptional moisture absorbance, he would ultimately improve both the comfort and performance of his fellow sportsmen and sportswomen.

To fund his plan, he used a couple of thousands he earned by selling roses on Valentine’s day, one of his numerous minor business projects. Combining that with several smaller loans, Plank officially established Under Armour in 1996.

The curious name of the brand is a result of a mistake one of Plank’s brothers made when asking about Kevin’s business. After struggling to trademark some other names (including Heart and Body Armour), Kevin jumped at the fresh idea and named his brand Under Armour.

First, Kevin ran his business from his grandmother’s basement and car, sending sweat-absorbing T-shirts to his former football teammates and asking them to share their experiences with others. Soon, he received orders from the Georgia Tech team and started selling his goods in large quantities.

Under Armour finished its first fiscal year with +$17,000 and second with + $100,000 in sales. Then, in 1999 when Plank advertised in the iconic ESPN magazine (a risky and expensive move that required all UA’s employees to go without pay for weeks), major league teams started ordering.

In 2000, Under Armour made $1 million in direct sales, and in 2010, the company reached $1 billion in annual revenue for the first time. A year later, Kevin Plank officially entered the club of billionaires.

Stepping down but staying close

Under Armour, under Plank’s fearless and energetic leadership, achieved many successes, including acquiring numerous fitness tracking and dietary apps, which became the company’s second most important business revenue model.

Nevertheless, in 2017 and 2018, the growth seemed to stop and turned into net losses of more than $46 million annually (I’ll get into more detail on this matter shortly).

Subsequently, in October 2019, when the company’s assets were almost $5 billion, Kevin Plank stepped down as a CEO, succeeded by a close collaborator Patrick Frisk. However, Plank remains a company chairman, maintaining an executive role.

According to the latest news (as of May 2022), he did not plan to return as UA’s CEO even when Frisk announced his plans to step down from the position in response to the disappointing quarterly results of the company.

Kevin Plank’s YouTube Videos

In this 2011 speech, Kevin Plank explains how he became the successful entrepreneur he is today and shares advice with business students from the University of Maryland.

In this 2021 video, Kevin Plank sheds light on his work ethic, approaches to business culture, and the importance of consistency in the brand’s quality and reputation over the years.

This 2019 interview revolves around Kevin’s decision to step down as Under Armour’s CEO. The brand’s founder explains the reasons behind the decision and discusses his role in the brand’s future.

Kevin Plank’s Business Failures

Like most successful brands, Under Armour has been through both good and bad, praise and loathing. The firm faced several scandals regarding the quality or safety of its products over the years. Nevertheless, it was for different reasons when a financial crisis hit the company in 2018.

Under Armour’s sudden losses

In September 2015, Under Armour’s stock peaked at around $52. Nevertheless, the business suddenly stagnated in the upcoming years, losing almost $50 million annually for two consecutive years. The company had to streamline its operation, cutting nearly 400 jobs.

At the same time, other brands like Nike and Adidas grew rapidly, and everyone wondered what was happening behind the scenes in UA. Although numerous combined reasons were probably involved, analytics agree that Kevin Plank’s personal controversy added to the situation significantly.

First, he was publicly criticized for his 2017 supportive comments on the presidency of Donald Trump when he said that having such a business-oriented head of state would be a great asset for the entire country.

Although Plank tried to explain that he just chose his words poorly and later even publicly opposed President Trump for his reaction to the Charlottesville protests, part of the public and media remained bitter towards him.

Then, the company was backlashed for its ‘misogynous culture when it was revealed that several senior employees used their business credit cards in strip clubs.

The third affair preceding the UA’s commercial downfall revolved around Plank’s relationship with Stephanie Ruhle, a TV anchor and former banker, who allegedly ‘gave him business advice’ while repeatedly accompanying him in his private jet.

Whether or not these controversies were the main reasons behind UA’s sudden losses, the situation escalated to the point where Kevin Plank decided to step down from his CEO position. The very next year (2019), the company recovered, earning $92 million in net income.

Nevertheless, Plank’s withdrawal was likely not the universal cure for the company’s issues. In 2022, the brand seems to struggle again, pledging to search for the best business strategy after an exceptionally weak quarter.

Kevin Plank’s Family

In 2003, Kevin Plank married Desiree Jacqueline Guerzon (b. 1973), a Filipino-American nurse turned businesswoman. The pair met at a prom party and tied the knot after several years of dating. They had two children together, Katherine and Kevin James.

In 2019, the media started publishing stories on Kevin’s alleged romantic affair with Stephanie Ruhle, a financial analyst, TV anchor, and a married mother of three (see the previous section).

Apparently, their relationship concerned Under Armour’s employees for quite some time by then: Kevin had to explain to his colleagues whether Stephanie influenced his decisions as CEO or whether he spent any of the company’s funds on the romance.

This unfolded as the company went through two challenging years, losing millions in profit without obvious objective reasons. Insiders believe that Plank’s affair was one of the key reasons for his 2019 resignation. Nevertheless, his marriage seems to have withstood it.

Kevin Plank’s Net Worth and Career Earnings

According to Forbes, Kevin Plank’s net worth is currently around $1.5 billion. Although it is undoubtedly an impressive wealth, it is still about $0.5 billion less than a year before. It’s probably fair to say that this has not been the most successful year ever for this businessman.

Nevertheless, examining his financial history closer, it looks like Kevin Plank is quite used to the sinusoidal relationship between success and setbacks. In the past, he was usually able to get back on track fast and smoothly.

Regarding his earnings, Plank reportedly received more than $372,000 from Under Armour last year (2021) as his chairman salary. Additionally, he also got $1,875,000 as a bonus and $4,000,000 in stocks. That sums up to more than $6 million in compensations.

Kevin Plank’s Real Estate Holdings

Kevin Plank is the owner of several impressive properties. Some serve him and his family directly; others can be seen more as investments. Here are a few interesting properties in Plank’s possession.

Greenspring Valley Estate

Despite the fact that, as a billionaire running a trans-national business, Kevin Plank could probably live anywhere around the world, he chose to stay in his native Maryland instead.

Plank’s primary residential address is in Lutherville, Timonium, where he officially resides with his family in a lavish traditional-style mansion surrounded by greenery, tennis courts, guest houses, and pools.

Besides this mansion, however, Plank and his wife also bought a 35,000-square-foot rural estate in the nearby Greenspring Valley in Baltimore County, planning to build what could be one of the largest houses in the area on the plot.

However, the construction works (closely monitored by local media) were suddenly halted in 2018. Although no official reasons were disclosed, and the project reportedly did not face any legal obstacles, the timing seems to coincide with Under Armour’s financial crisis and probably even Plank’s affair with Ruhle.

Georgetown Mansion

Kevin Plank also used to own an elegant Federal-style mansion in Georgetown, which he bought in 2013, planning to use it primarily for hosting gatherings with his friends and business partners.

The historic house standing on a 12,000 square-foot estate, was built in 1810 and boasted eight bedrooms, eight full bathrooms, plus four half bathrooms. One of its previous owners was the U.S. Ambassador David K. E. Bruce, who often hosted prominent guests there, including multiple presidents.

The mansion features a heated pool, cigar and whisky parlor, a ballroom, and an exquisite $1 million staircase made of the same type of marble as the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

The estate reportedly cost Kevin Plank $7.85 million. In 2020, he sold it for $17.25 million, citing a lack of opportunities to use it as the main reason.

Sagamore Farm

In 2007, Kevin Plank invested in the 630-acre Sagamore Farm in Baltimore County, Maryland.

The historic farm once belonged to a wealthy businessman Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt who died on sunken RSM Lusitania in 1915. It was home to many victorious race horses, including stallion Native Dancer, who went 21 for 22 during his career between 1952 and 1954.

Plank sought to restore the farm and revive Maryland’s horse racing tradition. Under the Sagamore Racing name, he restarted breeding there, and the farm currently houses around 100 horses, many actively training for the races.

Kevin Plank Quotes

“I’ve always been a hustler.”

“You need to put your hands around the throat of your business, and you need to run it. There’s no other way.”

“The sports apparel industry was dominated by the big shoe companies. But there was a void in apparel and I decided to fill it.”

“People like being on winning teams.”

“I’m a big advocate of the power of positive thinking, particularly for small businesses.”

“Brand is not a product, that’s for sure; it’s not one item. It’s an idea, it’s a theory, it’s a meaning, it’s how you carry yourself. It’s aspirational, it’s inspirational.”

“People say they’ll pay more for something made in the U.S., but they won’t actually do it.”

“The companies that do well are the companies that use math.”

“Nothing ever surprises me about the market.”

“Employees get things done. Partners get things done done. But owners get things done done done.”


Question: What happened to Kevin Plank?

Answer: In 2019, after serving as Under Armour’s CEO for 23 years, Kevin Plank stepped down from the position. Nevertheless, although he no longer oversees the company’s daily operation, he kept his executive power as Under Armour’s chairman.

Question: Why is Kevin Plank’s Under Armour spelled with au?

Answer: Despite Kevin Plank being American, he chose to spell the brand’s name the British way – Armour instead of Armor. According to Plank, he simply preferred how it looked in a customized telephone number.

Question: How did Kevin Plank fund Under Armour?

Answer: In the beginning, Kevin Plank used his savings, earnings from seasonal sale of flowers and t-shirts, credit card debts, and loans to fund the establishment of Under Armour.

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