Nike Inc. said on Tuesday that the company has launched a succession-planning process to find a replacement for founder Phil Knight, who is leaving his position as chairman of the board.
Knight himself has recommended the retailer's current president and CEO, Mark Parker, who has led the company since 2006. Knight’s son Travis Knight has also taken a position on the board effective immediately.
Knight said he has created a limited-liability company, dubbed Swoosh, to hold the majority of his Nike shares and whose board will oversee voting and management.
It’s hard to imagine Nike without Phil Knight — who is not only one of the two men who founded the company as an upstart shoemaker in the 1960s, but also the one who helped grow it to the sportswear retail behemoth it is today.
Knight was the guy who saw Nike not just as an apparel and footwear maker, but as an “entertainment” company. It was Knight who fought to bring on Michael Jordan, for example. That launched a barrage of captivating and award-winning marketing that arguably helped in turn launch Jordan to super-hero status and even contributed to the global popularity of the game of basketball.
Other apparel retailers have seen founders leave in much murkier circumstances (see: American Apparel), which has increasingly left a lot of decision-making to private equity firms that don’t tend to have much of a feel for marketing, merchandising, or other nitty-gritty aspects of retail, or much vision.
“For me, Nike has always been more than just a company — it has been my life’s passion,” said Knight.