Phil Knight Biography

(Co-founder of Nike, Inc.)

Birthday: February 24, 1938 (Pisces)

Born In: Portland

Phil Knight is the co-founder of Nike, Inc., one of the world's largest suppliers of athletic shoes and apparel. He had served as the chairman and chief executive officer of the company in the past. Dubbed the “most powerful person in sports” by ‘Sports Illustrated’, Knight is neither a sportsman nor the owner of a sports team, but his influence on the world of sports has been tremendous. He had always had an interest in running and was a middle-distance runner at the University of Oregon (UO) in Eugene where he studied journalism. As a college student, he was confused about his future and tried his hand working at different jobs before realizing what he actually wanted to do. He served in the army for some time and also worked as an assistant professor at Portland State University (PSU). It was only when he enrolled at the Stanford Graduate School of Business that his life purpose made itself clear to him. While working on a college assignment he came up with the idea for a sports shoe company and realized that he had found his calling. He teamed up with his former track coach, Bill Bowerman and the duo started out by selling Japanese-made running shoes in America. Eventually their business evolved into what is today one of the most famous brands of sports apparel, Nike
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Philip H Knight, Philip Hampson Knight

Age: 86 Years, 86 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Penny Knight

father: William W. Knight

mother: Lota Hatfield Knight

siblings: Jeanne Knight, Joanne Knight

children: Christina Knight, Matthew Knight, Travis Knight

Philanthropists Business People

Height: 1.80 m

U.S. State: Oregon

City: Portland, Oregon

Founder/Co-Founder: Nike, Inc., Laika

More Facts

education: 1962 - Stanford Graduate School of Business, 1959 - University of Oregon, Cleveland High School

  • 1

    What inspired Phil Knight to start Nike?

    Phil Knight was inspired to start Nike after traveling to Japan and discovering the Onitsuka Tiger sneakers, which he believed could be successful in the United States.

  • 2

    How did Phil Knight come up with the name "Nike?"

    Phil Knight and his team came up with the name "Nike" after the Greek goddess of victory, symbolizing the company's mission to help athletes achieve success.

  • 3

    What challenges did Phil Knight face when starting Nike?

    Phil Knight faced challenges such as financial struggles, competition from established brands, and overcoming skepticism about the potential success of the company.

  • 4

    How did Phil Knight revolutionize the sports shoe industry?

    Phil Knight revolutionized the sports shoe industry by introducing innovative designs, leveraging celebrity endorsements, and creating a strong brand image through marketing campaigns.

  • 5

    What is Phil Knight's philosophy on entrepreneurship and business success?

    Phil Knight's philosophy on entrepreneurship emphasizes taking risks, embracing innovation, and staying true to one's passion and vision to achieve business success.

Childhood & Early Life
He was born as Philip Hampson Knight on February 24, 1938, as the son of lawyer turned newspaper publisher William W. Knight, and his wife Lota. His father was a domineering though caring person who encouraged his son to push his limits.
He attended Cleveland High School in Portland. He loved running from a young age and was a key member of the track team.
He went to the University of Oregon (UO) in Eugene where he continued running. There he met the legendary track coach Bill Bowerman under whom he trained as a middle-distance runner. Eventually Knight struck up a deep and meaningful friendship with Bowerman. He graduated with a journalism degree in 1959.
Knight was confused about his future even after his graduation and unsure of what he actually wanted to do. He enlisted in the army and completed a year of service.
He decided to enroll in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. One of the courses he studied was Frank Shallenberger’s small business class which he found very interesting.
While working on an assignment in which the students had to invent a new business, Knight came up with the blueprint for a business dealing in sports shoes. He wrote a paper titled ‘Can Japanese Sports Shoes Do to German Sports Shoes What Japanese Cameras Did to German Cameras?’ and realized that the purpose of his life was to create a business dealing in shoes. He graduated with a MBA in 1962.
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He embarked on a trip around the world following his graduation. He visited Japan in November 1962 where he discovered the Tiger-brand running shoes which were manufactured by Onitsuka Co. Knight was highly impressed by the high quality and low cost of the shoes and quickly secured a distribution contract with the company.
On his return, he took up a job in a Portland-based accounting firm while working on his business plan alongside. He collaborated with his former coach Bowerman to form a partnership to distribute the shoes in America, and thus the company Blue Ribbon Sports was born in 1964.
The duo worked hard to make the business grow and over the next few years they opened retail stores in Santa Monica, California, and Eugene, Oregon. The company performed well and by the late 1960s was generating good profits.
Knight and Bowerman faced some disagreements regarding the contract with Onitsaka in 1971 and decided to start their own company. Jeff Johnson, a friend of Knight and an employee of Blue Ribbon Sports suggested naming the new company “Nike” after the Greek winged goddess of victory.
As a former athlete, Knight aspired to design products that the world’s top athletes would want to use. He made acquaintances with Olympic track athletes, such as the long-distance runner Steve Prefontaine, hoping he would influence others to try his products. Nike’s model of shoe, the Cortez, debuted at the 1972 Olympic trials and proved to be highly profitable.
The company’s profits grew manifold over the ensuing years and by 1980 Nike had captured one-half of the athletic shoe market. Knight offered an endorsement deal to the tennis superstar John McEnroe, and this proved to be one of his best marketing moves. After McEnroe hurt his ankle, he started wearing a particular Nike model and the sales of that model surged in the months to come.
Nike saw steady growth throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The company’s escalating fame allowed Knight to rope in more world famous sportspeople like Michael Jordan, Andre Agassi, Charles Barkley, and Tiger Woods for endorsements.
Along with tremendous success, Knight also came under the scrutiny of human rights groups over how Nike treated its workers in Asian countries. Nike was accused of paying very low wages to its Asian workers, and there were also accusations of corporal punishment and sexual harassment in Nike facilities. In spite of the criticisms Nike remained one of the world’s largest shoemakers.
In the 1990s, Nike expanded its business and branched out into hockey, golf, and soccer apparel. Their aggressive expansion strategy paid off and the company enjoyed more than $10 billion in yearly sales before 1999.
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Phil Knight resigned as the CEO of Nike in November 2004 though he continued as the chairman of the board. He announced in June 2015 that he would step down as the company's chairman though he did not specify a date.
Major Works
Phil Knight co-founded Nike, Inc., a footwear company, in 1971. Today Nike is a multinational with its presence in several countries all over the world and is one of the world's largest suppliers of athletic shoes and apparel and a major manufacturer of sports equipment. It is the most valuable brand among sports businesses.
Awards & Achievements
In 2000, Knight was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame for his Special Contribution to Sports in Oregon.
In 2012, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor for being the driving force behind Nike's huge financial support of U.S. basketball and its players.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Penelope "Penny" Parks in September 1968. They had four children, of whom one son, Matthew, died in a diving accident in 2004.
Philanthropic Works
Knight donated US $105 million to the Stanford GSB in 2006, which was at that time the largest ever individual donation to an American business school.
Along with his wife, he pledged US $100 million to the OHSU Cancer Institute in 2008 which was later renamed "OHSU Knight Cancer Institute" in his honor.
In 2012, Knight contributed US $65,000 to the higher education Political Action Committee (PAC) which aims to facilitate an increase in the autonomy of schools in the Oregon University System.
Facts About Phil Knight

Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike, once worked as a sports journalist for the Oregonian newspaper before starting his own footwear company.

Knight is known for his philanthropic efforts, including substantial donations to his alma mater, the University of Oregon, and other charitable causes.

He is an avid runner and has completed several marathons, showcasing his passion for sports and fitness beyond just business.

Knight is a published author, having written a memoir titled "Shoe Dog," which provides insights into the founding and growth of Nike.

Despite his immense success in business, Knight remains humble and values the hard work and dedication of his employees, creating a positive and inclusive company culture at Nike.

See the events in life of Phil Knight in Chronological Order

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