Philip Hampson “Phil” Knight (born February 24, 1938) is an American business magnate and philanthropist. A native of Oregon, he is the co-founder and chairman of Nike, Inc., and previously served as the chief executive officer of Nike. In 2013, Forbes named Knight the 56th richest person in the world and the 24th richest in America, with an estimated net worth of US$16.3 billion. Phil Knight is the son of lawyer turned newspaper publisher, William W. Knight, and his wife Lota (Hatfield) Knight. When his father refused to give him a summer job at his newspaper, believing that his son should find work on his own, Phil went to the rival Oregonian, where he worked the night shift tabulating sports scores every morning and running home the full seven miles.”
Knight continued his education at the University of Oregon in Eugene, where he is a graduate brother of Phi Gamma Delta (“FIJI”) fraternity, was a sports reporter for the Oregon Daily Emerald, and earned a journalism degree in 1959. Before Blue Ribbon Sports, later Nike, took off, Knight was first a Certified Public Accountant with Price Waterhouse, and then Coopers & Lybrand; and an assistant professor of business administration at Portland State University.
Immediately after graduating from Oregon, Knight enlisted in the Army and served one year on active duty and seven years in the Army Reserve. After the year of active duty, he enrolled at Stanford Graduate School of Business. 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: “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 master’s degree in business administration from the school in 1962.
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 the 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 Tiger distribution rights for the western United States.When Knight finally received the shoe samples, he mailed two pairs to Bill Bowerman at the University of Oregon hoping to gain a sale and an influential endorsement.
To Knight’s surprise, Bowerman not only ordered the Tiger shoes but also 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 birth date of Blue Ribbon Sports, forerunner to Nike. In 1977, together with Bill Bowerman and Geoff Hollister, Knight founded an American running team called Athletics West.
Knight’s first sales were made out of a now legendary green Plymouth Valiant automobile 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. The company was founded on January 25, 1964, as Blue Ribbon Sports, by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight, and officially became Nike, Inc. on May 30, 1971. The company takes its name from Nike, the Greek goddess of victory.
Nike, Inc. is an American multinational corporation that is engaged in the design, development, manufacturing and worldwide marketing and selling of footwear, apparel, equipment, accessories and services. The company is headquartered near Beaverton, Oregon, in the Portland metropolitan area, and is one of only two Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Oregon. It is one of the world’s largest suppliers of athletic shoes and apparel and a major manufacturer of sports equipment, with revenue in excess of US$24.1 billion in its fiscal year 2012 (ending May 31, 2012). As of 2012, it employed more than 44,000 people worldwide. The brand alone is valued at $10.7 billion, making it the most valuable brand among sports businesses.