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Best Week, Worst Week: Md. US Attorney moves to national stage; Under Armour regroups after loss

best-worsr-042917Former Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein was given a bump up to the national stage this week while Under Armour’s financial picture took a hit with disappointing first-quarter results.

Legal affairs writer Steve Lash reported Tuesday that Rosenstein was overwhelmingly confirmed by the U.S. as the next deputy U.S. attorney general, earning the post on a 94-6 vote.

Rosenstein might have to hit the ground running when he transitions to Washington. His first major decision as the No. 2 person at the Justice Department will likely be whether to name a special counsel to investigate if Russia interfered and perhaps colluded with President  Donald Trump’s campaign during last November’s presidential election or to oversee the inquiry himself.

The 52-year-old Rosenstein served as Maryland’s U.S. attorney after being nominated by President George W. Bush in 2005. Senators in both parties, including Maryland’s two Democratic senators, Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen — have praised Rosenstein’s integrity, fairness and apparent disregard for political consequences. Cardin has called Rosenstein the right person at the right time for the Justice Department while Sen. Chuck Grassley, R- Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, praised Rosenstein for a well-known reputation for independence.

Meanwhile, first-quarter losses at Baltimore-based athletic apparel maker Under Armour has CEO Kevin Plank dialing back the bravado he exhibited in 2010 – “Those guys are old,” he said — about rival company Nike.

Seven years later, however, Plank is content to tout Under Armour Inc. as the third-largest sports brand in the world, but admitted that Nike and Adidas are a “long ways away,” and even more so now after the company announced a first-quarter loss.

Growth has slowed for Under Armour in the face of aggressive competition from established rivals Nike and Addidas alongside weak demand for its shoes. Under Armour’s footwear business collapsed in the first quarter — growing just 2 percent after surging 64 percent a year earlier — as the third edition of NBA star Steph Curry’s signature basketball shoes disappointed. Revenue declined 1 percent in North America, offsetting gains overseas. Even the little bit of good news for the company—shares rose as much as 12 percent on Thursday—comes with a caveat: Wall Street was surprised the company didn’t lose even more money.

In Baltimore and elsewhere in Maryland, Plank’s presence seems at times ubiquitous, as his various affiliates have launched, or are in the process of launching, a whiskey distillery, a horse racing stable, a luxury hotel in Fell’s Point, and an innovation laboratory at City Garage. But investors nationally have other interests. They wonder if Under Armour can return to its high-growth days, analysts say.