The baton has been passed in Nike Inc.’s boardroom, with cofounder Phil Knight ceding the title of chairman to president and chief executive officer Mark Parker.
Apple Inc. ceo Tim Cook, who’s been a director at Nike since 2005, was named lead independent director.
The switch completes the leadership transition that the company began a year ago and leaves Knight with the title chairman emeritus and a standing invitation to attend Nike board meetings as an observer.
“Phil’s impact on Nike is immeasurable,” Parker said. “His entrepreneurial drive is and always will be part of our DNA. Along with Nike’s exceptional management team, I am committed to leading our next era of innovation and growth as we serve and inspire athletes throughout the world.”
Knight, who according to Forbes’ last tally is worth $24.1 billion, has been focusing on education recently, donating $400 million to Stanford University this year to create a program modeled on the Rhodes scholarships.
But the “shoe dog” — in April his book “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” was published — is not out of the game completely, saying, “I intend to continue to work to promote the company’s business in my new role for as long as I can contribute to Nike’s success and long-term growth.”
The footwear legend also said he sold his voting interests in Swoosh LLC, the company he formed over a year ago to hold the majority of his Nike Class A stock, to a trust controlled by his son, Travis Knight, who is also a Nike director.
The son now controls two of the five votes on Swoosh’s board, with the other votes controlled by Parker, Alan Graf and John Donahoe.
Nike is gearing up for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August and this week revealed more of the uniforms and technology it will have on tap for the games.
The sportswear giant also reported that fourth-quarter net income fell 2.2 percent to $846 million as revenues came in slightly lower than analysts expected and North American clearance sales weighed on results.
Nike’s revenues gained 5.8 percent to $32.38 billion last year, but Parker has an ambitious plan to push the company to a $50 billion top line by 2020 While Parker acknowledged Nike faces macroeconomic and geopolitical volatility, he also said the brand was ready to compete.
“The backdrop of our business is more dynamic than it’s ever been,” the ceo said. “But Nike wins because we just don’t adapt to these forces, we create and shape the change. We lead….In retail, our industry is in the early stages of unprecedented transformation. Mobile innovation and personal services are dominating the landscape. That’s why we invest in integrating digital and physical retail seamlessly, giving our consumers better access to the products they want and while we are working even closer with our best wholesale partners, who share our vision for the future of retail.”