Biography Of Phil Knight
In the year 1993, ‘The Sporting News’ announced Phil Knight as the most powerful person of the year in sports. Strangely, this man was no athlete, coach or commissioner but was the founder and CEO of Nike, the number one athletic shoe company in the world. Over the years, Knight has earned a reputation of being a visionary businessman and a hard-nosed CEO.
Phil Knight, the son of William H and Lola Knight was born on February 24, 1938 in Portland, Oregon. His father was the publisher of ‘Oregon Journal’. William was a loving but authoritarian father, who refused to give his son a summer job at his own newspaper as he believed that Phil should find work on his own. Knight went to the rival ‘Oregonian’, where he worked the night shift tabulating sports scores. Knight was a middle-distance runner for the University of Oregon track team. His interest in sports and especially track, gave Knight the drive to study the way track shoes were being made and marketed in the late 1950s. His coach Bill Bowerman's shared his obsession of improving running shoes and offered assistance. They both collectively came to the conclusion that American shoes were inferior in style and quality; and were too heavy and too easily damaged. The Japanese, on the other hand, were experimenting with new, trimmed-down styles fashioned in lightweight, hardy nylon.
Knight wrote his Stanford business school term paper on the same subject, when asked by professor, Frank Shallenberger to write a paper on how they would create a new company. Owing to his experience of Bowerman in his mind, Phil Knight's paper expressed how the import of cheap but well-made running shoes from Japan could generate profits. A few years later, he put his theory into practice by founding Blue Ribbon Sports. Bowerman and Phil together, invested 500 dollars to import Tiger shoes from Japan. Knight harnessed the ultimate aim to displace Adidas, the triple-striped German shoes worn by all serious track and field athletes at the time. Although in the first year, they cleared only 364 dollars but by the year 1969 sales soared to a million dollars. The success mantra was to keep the production cost low. It was in 1972 that the company was renamed Nike. From the very beginning, this brand sported its own look and attitude. They developed the ‘swoosh’ logo and cultivated endorsers that included Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Pete Sampras.
Knight underwent his share of controversies. The company came under increasing scrutiny for its wages and working conditions in Indonesia, China and Vietnam. Even though Andrew Young, the United Nations Ambassador endorsed that the factories of Nike were clean, organized, adequately ventilated and well lit, the human rights group did not let them go scot-free. They charged that Indonesian workers were incessantly striking over low wages. Nike workers received 2.46 dollars per day in a nation that counted 4 dollars per day as the minimum survival wage. The uproar over the Asian workers finally forced the company to raise the wages to a small amount. Various other issues related to women laborers also cropped up such as overtime, corporal punishment and sexual harassment. Their use of child labor in the Far East was also scrutinized. However, the negative publicity did not stop the growth of the company. By the year 2004, Nike was selling goods worth around 12bn dollars annually and employed 24,000 staff worldwide.
In November 2004, Phil Knight stepped down from the post of the chief executive of the company and instead took on the responsibility of being the chairman of the board of directors.
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