It was announced last year and completed at the end of June: Phil Knight's retirement from the board of directors at Nike marks the end of an era for the brand, although he was appointed as a chairman emeritus who may still drop in at any board meeting as an observer.
As previously recommended by Knight, Mark Parker has been appointed as Nike's chairman, on top of the chief executive's job that he has held since 2006. Parker described Knight's impact on Nike as “immeasurable” in a statement on June 30, a year after the company stated that it was preparing a transition for Knight's departure.
As vividly described in his memoirs, which we have reviewed here below, Knight is the founder and the driving force behind Nike. He established Blue Ribbon Sports in 1964 in partnership with the late Bill Bowerman, track and field coach at the University of Oregon, to import Tiger shoes from Japan. The company went on to launch the Nike brand in 1971 and Knight was its chief executive until 2004. He did step aside in the nineties after Tom Clarke, a long-time Nike executive, was appointed president – only to step back in when sales started to sag at the end of the decade. Nike turned Knight into one of the world's wealthiest men, with a net worth estimated by Forbes at more than $24 billion.
At the same time, Knight announced that he sold his voting interests in Swoosh LLC to a trust controlled by his son and Nike director, Travis Knight. Swoosh is a company formed last year to hold the majority of Knight's Class A shares in Nike. The stake amounts to 15 percent of Nike's outstanding shares, but the votes attached to the A-shares will entitle Swoosh to elect 75 percent of Nike's board of directors. After this transaction, Travis Knight controls two of the five votes on the Swoosh's board. The three remaining votes are exercised by Parker and two other Nike directors, Alan Graf Jr and John Donahoe.
Nike further announced that Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple, has been appointed as lead independent director of the board, from June 30. He has been a Nike director since 2005, is the chair of the board's compensation committee and a member of the nominating and corporate governance committee.
Parker already spent 27 years at the company as a designer before he became president and chief executive in 2006. He stepped in after the departure of William Perez, whom Knight picked from outside the company to succeed him as CEO in 2004 but who stayed in the job for a little over a year.