Phil Knight: Wikis


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Phil Knight
Born February 24, 1938 (1938-02-24) (age 72)
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
Occupation Co-founder and Chairman of Nike, Inc.
Net worth US$9.8 billion (2007)[1]
Spouse(s) Penny Knight
Children Three
Nike Corporation

Philip Hampson "Phil" Knight (born February 24, 1938) is the co-founder and Chairman of Nike, Inc.. He resigned as the company's chief executive officer in 2004, while retaining the position of chairman of the board. As of 2007, Knight's 35% stake in Nike gives him an estimated net worth of US$9.8 billion, making him the 30th richest American.[1]

A graduate of the University of Oregon and Stanford Graduate School of Business, he has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to the schools. Knight gave the largest donation in history at the time to Stanford's business school in 2006. A native Oregonian, he ran track for coach Bill Bowerman at the University of Oregon, with whom he would co-found Nike.


Early years

Phil Knight was born February 24, 1938 in Portland, Oregon, the son of a lawyer and future newspaper publisher.[2] Knight attended Cleveland High School in Portland and then the University of Oregon in Eugene, where he was a member of Phi Gamma Delta ("FIJI") fraternity and earned a journalism degree in 1959.[2] He was a middle-distance runner at the school under track coach Bill Bowerman and ran a personal best 4:10 mile,[3] winning varsity letters for track in 1957, 1958, and 1959.


Budding entrepreneur

Right after graduating from Oregon, Knight enlisted in the Army and served one year on active duty and seven years in the Army Reserve.[2] After the year of active duty, he enrolled at Stanford Graduate School of Business.[2] In Frank Shallenberger's Small Business class, Knight developed a love affair with something besides sports — he discovered he was an entrepreneur. Knight recalls in a Stanford Magazine article[2] "That class was an 'aha!' moment" ... "Shallenberger defined the type of person who was an entrepreneur--and I realized he was talking to me. I remember after saying to myself: 'This is really what I would like to do.' " In this class Knight needed to create a business plan. His paper, "Can Japanese Sports Shoes Do to German Sports Shoes What Japanese Cameras Did to German Cameras?", essentially was the premise to his foray into selling running shoes. He graduated with a Masters of Business Administration from the school in 1962.[2]

Knight set out on a trip around the world after graduation, during which he made a stop in Kobe, Japan in November 1962. It was there he discovered Tiger brand running shoes, manufactured in Kobe by the Onitsuka Co. So impressed with the quality and low cost, Knight made a cold call on Mr. Onitsuka, who agreed to meet with him. By the end of the meeting, Knight had secured distribution rights for the western United States for Tiger running shoes.[citation needed]

The first Tiger samples would take more than a year to be shipped to Knight, during which time he found a job as an accountant in Portland, Oregon. When Knight finally received the shoe samples, he mailed two pairs to Bill Bowerman in Eugene in the hope of gaining a sale and an influential endorsement. To Knight's surprise, Bowerman not only ordered the Tiger shoes, he offered to become a partner with Knight and would provide some design ideas for better running shoes. The two men shook hands on a partnership on January 25, 1964, the birthdate of Blue Ribbon Sports, forerunner to Nike.[4]

Nike's origin

Knight's first sales were made out of a now legendary green Plymouth Valiant at track meets across the Pacific Northwest. By 1969, these early sales allowed Knight to leave his accountant job and work full time for Blue Ribbon Sports.

It was Jeff Johnson, a friend of Knight's, who suggested the name Nike. Nike is named after the Greek winged goddess of victory. Nike's logo, now considered one of the most powerful logos in the world, was commissioned for a mere $35 from Carolyn Davidson.[citation needed] According to Nike's website, Knight stated "I don't love it, but it will grow on me." However, in 1983 (Nike went public in 1980), Davidson was given an undisclosed amount of Nike stock for her contribution to the company's brand.

Labor issues

Knight was named a "Corporate Crook" in Michael Moore's 1996 book Downsize This!. The book cited the harsh conditions in Indonesian sweatshops, where pregnant women and girls as young as fourteen years old sewed shoes for factories that the company contracted to make its products. Moore went to Knight in the hopes of convincing him to fix this problem. The interview can be seen in Moore's film The Big One – of the nearly 20 CEOs that Moore wished to interview for his movie, only Knight agreed to speak with Moore.

Knight informed Moore that Nike does not own any of the factories that make its products. Knight told Moore if he was willing to invest in and build a factory in the U.S. that could match the price of footwear made overseas, Nike would consider buying shoes from him.

In 1998, Knight pledged to impose more stringent standards for the factories that Nike engages to manufacture its goods, including minimum age standards, factory monitoring, and greater external access to Nike's practices.


In 2000, Knight was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame for his Special Contribution to Sports in Oregon.[5] Knight is believed to have contributed approximately $230 million to the University of Oregon, the majority of which was for athletics.[6] On August 18, 2007, Knight announced that he and his wife, Penny, would be donating an additional $100 million to the University of Oregon Athletics Legacy Fund.[7] This donation is reportedly the largest in the University's history.

However, Knight's contributions to the Athletic department at U of O have not come without controversy.[8] His significant contributions have granted him influence and access atypical of an athletic booster. In addition to the "best seats in the house" for any U of O athletic event, he has his own personalized locker in the football team's locker room, and an athletic building named for him (the library is named for his mother, the law school is named for his father, and the under-construction basketball arena is named for his son). However, most controversial was his successful lobbying to have his friend and former insurance salesman, Pat Kilkenny, named as Athletic Director.[9] Kilkenny, another wealthy athletic booster, has neither a college degree nor any germane experience. Kilkenny attended but did not graduate from the University of Oregon. The former chairman and chief executive officer of the San Diego-based Arrowhead General Insurance Agency, he grew his business into a nationwide organization with written premiums of nearly $1 billion when he sold the company in 2006.[10] ESPN's Outside the Lines spotlighted Knight and his donation-backed influence on U of O athletics on an April 6, 2008 episode.

In 2006, Phil Knight donated $105 million to Stanford Graduate School of Business, at the time the largest donation to a business school in history.[11] Knight also provided monetary support to his high school alma mater Cleveland High School for their new track, football field, and gymnasium.

In October 2008, Phil and Penny Knight pledged $100 million to the OHSU Cancer Institute, the largest gift in the history of Oregon Health & Science University. In recognition, the university renamed it the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.[12]

Later years

Knight resigned as the company's CEO November 18, 2004, while retaining the position of chairman of the board.[13][14] He was replaced by William Perez, former CEO of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., who was in turn replaced by Mark Parker in 2006.[15]

In 2002, Knight purchased Will Vinton (Animation) Studios, where his son, Travis, worked as an animator, and changed the name to LAIKA. Travis was named to the LAIKA Board of Directors later that year, and became CEO of LAIKA in March 2009, replacing Nike alum Dale Wahl.[16] LAIKA released their first feature film (stop motion) Coraline in February 2009.


  1. ^ a b "#30 Philip Knight". The Forbes 400. September 20, 2007. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Krentzman, Jackie (1997). "The Force Behind the Nike Empire". Stanford Magazine. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  3. ^ "Notable Oregonians: Phil Knight — Innovator, Business Leader". Oregon Blue Book. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Special Contribution to Sports". Oregon Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  6. ^ Bachman, Rachel (May 4, 2008). "Phil Knight's influence transforms University of Oregon athletics". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  7. ^ Bellamy, Ron (August 20, 2007). "Knights to give major gift to UO". Eugene Register Guard. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  8. ^ Fish, Mike (January 13, 2006). "Just do it!". Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  9. ^ "OTL: Phil Knight and Oregon" (Flash video). Outside the Lines. ESPN. 2 April 2008. Retrieved 2009-11-12. 
  10. ^ "Oregon Names Kilkenny Athletic Director". 14 February 2007. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  11. ^ Tom, Christian L. (September 19, 2006). "Nike Founder Donates $105 million to GSB". The Stanford Daily. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  12. ^ "Knights to give $100 million to OHSU Cancer Institute". Oregon Health & Science University. October 29, 2008. Retrieved 2009-11-12. 
  13. ^ Peterson, Anne M. (November 19, 2004). "Nike's Phil Knight resigns as CEO". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  14. ^ Dash, Eric (November 19, 2004). "Founder of Nike to Hand Off Job to a New Chief". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  15. ^ Barbaro, Michael; Dash, Eric (January 24, 2006). "Another Outsider Falls Casualty to Nike's Insider Culture". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  16. ^ Salter, Chuck (December 19, 2007). "The Knights' Tale". Fast Company. Retrieved 2009-10-27. 

External links

Simple English

Phil Knight is an American businessman who was one of the first owners of Nike, Inc. with Bill Bowerman. In 2008, he had a net worth of US$ 10.5 billion and was the 31st richest person in the United States.[1]




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