Phil Knight has begun the process of removing himself from direct involvement in the sports footwear and apparel giant he founded 41 years ago.
Knight, chairman of Nike Inc. since stepping down as its chief executive officer, said he intends to recommend to Nike’s board that Mark Parker, president and ceo, succeed him as chairman next year.
The company also appointed Travis Knight, Phil’s son and president and ceo of animation studio LAIKA LLC, to its board.
The elder Knight has formed Swoosh LLC and has contributed 128,500,000 of his shares of Nike’s Class A common stock, representing 15 percent of Nike’s Class A and Class B common stock. The new entity’s board will determine how the Class A shares of Nike are voted and managed going forward.
The board of Swoosh will have five votes, with two initially held by Knight. The other three will be held by Parker; Alan Graf Jr., executive vice president and chief financial officer of FedEx Corp. and a Nike director since 2002, and John Donahoe 2nd, president and ceo of eBay Inc. and a Nike director since 2014.
In the future, Knight may choose to appoint an additional director and assign one or both of his votes to that individual.
“Over the years, I’ve spent a great deal of time considering how I might some day evolve my ownership and leadership of Nike in a way that benefits all our stakeholders. Today, we have taken a number of important steps that will continue to promote Nike’s long-term growth,” Knight said.
With an estimated net worth of $24.3 billion, according to Forbes, Knight is the 22nd richest man in the U.S. Before relinquishing active day-to-day management, he built among the largest sports-oriented footwear and apparel companies in the world with revenues for the fiscal year ended May 31 totaling $30.6 billion, and net income hitting $3.27 billion. The company has maintained a steely grip on both sports and culture that is felt in virtually every corner of the globe, including a presence in international sports, inescapable visibility at global sporting events and endorsement arrangements with many of the world’s greatest athletes.
“Phil founded Nike to serve athletes,” Parker said. “That vision and inspiration continue to drive our success around the world. I have been privileged to work with Phil for over 35 years, and Nike’s exceptional management team and I are committed to building on Phil’s vision to drive the next era of growth for Nike.”
Nike’s board has initiated a succession planning process that is expected to conclude next year with the appointment of Nike’s next chairman. “Knight will continue to be actively involved with Nike well beyond the time he steps aside as chairman,” the company said as it disclosed its plans.
Speaking of Parker, Knight noted, “I believe Mark is the best choice to succeed me. He has been an outstanding ceo for the past night years and has demonstrated time and again his love for this company and his clear vision for capturing the tremendous potential Nike has to innovate, inspire and drive growth.”