Thursday, February 17, 2011

Phil Knight - Entrepreneurial Thinker

Philip Hampson Knight is an American billionaire. He is the founder and CEO of the athletic gear company known as Nike, which is the number one athletic shoe company in the world. Together, Philip Knight and the Nike Corporation helped start a sports business revolution in the 1970’s, changing old-fashioned tennis shoes into highly specialized equipment and promoting them as symbols of athletic prowess and success. The success of Nike has made Philip Knight one of the wealthiest men in the world. As of 2007, Knight’s 35% stake in Nike gives him an estimated net worth of $9.8 billion, making him the 30th richest American. Over the years Knight has earned a reputation as both a visionary businessman and a hard-nosed CEO.  He resigned as the company’s chief executive officer (CEO) as well as the president of Nike in 2004, while still maintaining the position of chairman of the board and advisory to the company.
Philip Hampson Knight was born on February 24, 1938 in Eastmore, which is a suburb of Portland, Oregon. He is the son of William W. (publisher of the Oregon Journal as well as a lawyer) and Lota (Hatfield) Knight (stay-at-home wife and mother). Philip Knight attended Cleveland High School where he excelled at track and field. Knight’s interest in running track continued throughout his years at the University of Oregon,  where he distinguished himself as a mile runner. After graduating from the University of Oregon with a BBA in 1959, Knight went on to earn his masters in Business Administration at Stanford University.
Right after graduating from the University of Oregon, Philip Knight enlisted in the Army and served one year on active duty and seven years in the Army Reserves. During this period of his life, Philip Knight attended Stanford Graduate School of Business where he realized that he is meant to be an entrepreneur. After graduation, he became employed as a CPA, however, shortly thereafter he realized that this was not the type of work that he wanted to do. In 1963, Knight decided it was time to put his business school plan into effect.
The interest in sports, especially that of track, gave Knight the impetus to study the way that track shoes were being made and marketed in the late 1950s. Knight contacted Bill Bowerman, his former track coach from the University of Oregon. Working together, they determined that American shoes were inferior in style and quality, too heavy, and too easily damaged. By doing intensive research, they learned that the Japanese’s were trying to manufacture shoes using light-weight durable nylon.  He later became personally involved by arranging to import the new trimmed down styles to America. He started a company that he called Blue Ribbon Sports. Knight made a purchase of 200 shoes and began selling them out of the trunk of his car at local track meets. In 1965, the first Blue Ribbon Sports store was opened in Santa Monica, California and Bowerman began experimenting with his own designs for durable, lightweight, supportive sports shoes. By the year of 1970, Knight and Bowerman had twenty employees scattered around his stores as well as his East Coast Distribution Center. Blue Ribbon Sports had revenues of just under $300,000 and promising potential, but they needed venture capital to expand. In 1971, they sold shares to a handful of friends for $5000 and arranged further financing in Japan, where they began manufacturing their own model of soccer shoe for import to the United States (American Decades). They changed their company name to Nike and adopted the well-known logo, called the Swoosh. And the rest is history. Nowadays, you see Nike products, such as shoes, shirts, pants, shorts, jackets, hats, etc.. everywhere you go. 
According to article in the Encyclopedia of Business, Knight said that there were three separate events that lead to his success as the leader of Nike. The first event occurred in 1957 when he first meets Bowerman. Bowerman was a former Olympian who had a passion for athletes and innovation, which would eventually inspire Knight to create a business dedicated to those two things. The second event occurred while he was attending business school at Stanford University. One of his business professors gave him an assignment where he had to devise a business plan for importing- high quality running shoes from Japan and then sell them in the United States at a high-profit margin. The third event occurred in1963, when Knight actually traveled to Japan in order to have meeting with the executives of Onitaska Company, which distributed the Tiger running shoes. The final result of these three particular events was the creation and success of the Nike empire.
Submitted by Cheryl Haynes


Krentzman, Jackie. “ The Force Behind the Nike Empire.” Print .

“ Nike.” American Decades. Ed. Judith S. Baughman, Victor Bondi, Richard Laymam, 
             Tandy McConnell, and Vincent Tompkins. Vol. 8: 1970-1979. Detroit: Gale,
              2000. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale. Anne Arundel Community College.
              23 Sept. 2009.

“ Philip Knight.” Newsmakers 1994, Issue 4. Gale Research, 1994. Reproduced in 
              Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2009.    

“ Philip Knight.” Encyclopedia of World Biography Supplement, Vol. 19. Gale Group,
              1999. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale

Philip Knight.” Business Leader Profiles for Students. Gale Group,
              1999. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale


  1. I loved nike shoes when I was younger. Now I find that I can't afford them. My son wears them now, he likes the style of them with jeans.

  2. That's pretty amazing that he started with 200 pairs of shoes that he sold out of his car and is now a billionaire. Wow.