Phillip Hampson Knight was born to famous newspaper publisher William W. Knight and his wife Lota Knight in Portland, on 24th February, 1938. He went to Cleveland high school for his secondary education, where he turned himself as a great athlete from a very young age. His father too pushed him to go beyond his limits. Soon he became a core member of the school’s track team. He became so passionate to running that he started to dream about running in the tracks of Olympic one day.

Excelling in track didn’t convert to academic result as he continued to produce average grades. He got enrolled in University of Oregon and kept putting more emphasis on running than study. There he met the legendary track coach Bill Bowerman. The coach foresaw a great athlete in Phillip when looked at him for the first time. The two enjoyed friendly relation and Phillip improved himself beyond expectation under his new coach. He was trained well as a middle distance runner. But, soon after the completion of graduation in Journalism, he became confused about what to do in future and became passionless to running.

Phillip Knight; Image Source:

Phillip’s father was a man of inspirations to him. He always wanted his son to excel on his own. He even didn’t let Phillip work in his media house Oregon Journal and compelled him to find his own way. After going through a few months of indecision period, Phillip joined the Army. He served for the Army for 8 years, 7 of which he remained in reserve. Coming out of the Army, he became a man of confidence and fearless decisions. He once again found attraction on his previous love, track. But, this time, he didn’t run himself. He helped millions to run!

The mythical story of the rise of global shoe brand Nike started at the beginning of 1950s, when Phillip began to research on track shoes, how they were made and marketed and which ones the athletes would love. At that time, Adidas had monopolized the global sports shoe market. Phillip dared to dream that he’d once topple Adidas from the throne of its monopoly empire. Of course he achieved this feat later in his life.

US markets were full of German sports shoes at the contemporary time. Phillip saw great possibility in Japanese shoes. Before beginning officially, he went to discuss the matter with his coach Bowerman. Both came to the solution that sports shoes available in U.S market are way too heavy for the athletes and much inconvenient.

They should make lighter shoes which could aid the athletes as well as bring profit for them. So Phillip collected some samples from US market and went out for a world tour to find out which market provides the best shoes for athletes. He assumed Japan would be best at the first place and his tour ended there. He contracted with a Japanese shoe producer to make shoes with some added qualities than his samples.

When the first supply of ordered shoes from Japan reached Portland, Phillip was amazed by the quality and relatively low price. So, he along with Bowerman started a business of importing shoes from Japan and selling them in USA. By 1964, their company spread out to Eugene, Oregon, Santa Monica and some several states of USA. It was named Blue Ribbon Sports primarily. But, Phillip had some issues with the Japanese producers in early 70s. Phillip decided to establish his own shoe production company and in the year 1971, Nike emerged. Name of the company came from the Greek Goddess of victory.

Headquarter of Nike; Image Source:

To emerge as a brand, only quality is not enough; proper media exposure and advertising is a must. Phillip realized this early and built network with famous athletes to become his company’s model. After a successful advertising campaign, Phillip came up with his market debut model of track shoe Cortez. The shoe model took the market with storm and became an instant hit. And the brand Nike was established by it.

Within the 80s decade, Nike engulfed half of the market. Like other giant companies, he gave lucrative endorsement deals to famous sportsmen. His company now has branches in 52 countries across the globe with more than 74 thousand workers. In the 90s decade, Phillip faced bulk of controversies as he was accused of lower payment to the Asian workers by the human rights groups and his company was accused for sexual molestation as well. Those controversies couldn’t affect Nike much. Phillip retired as CEO of Nike in 2004 but continued to be the chairman. His current net worth is $35.3 billion.

Unlike many celebrities and rich business tycoons, Phillip Knight has had a peaceful marital life as he married once in life. He has been married to Penelope Parks since 1968. Together they had 3 children, one of whom died in a car accident. This business genius has also a generous hand of donation, as he has donated hundreds of millions of dollar for education and different medical researches.


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