Nike co-founder Phil Knight will step down as the brand’s chairman in 2016. But before stepping down, Knight is looking back at the industry his brand has dominated, and forward to the competition Nike will face.
In an exclusive interview with USA Today, Knight reminisced on some of the criticism the brand received in its early days, which proved to be unwarranted and wrong.
“There’s no better example that Nike has lost its way than they paid $250,000 for a North Carolina basketball player,” Knight said to USA Today, referring to a 1984 article written in Fortune. The player Fortune was referring to was Michael Jordan, who through the Jordan Brand (owned by Nike) brings in $2 billion a year through shoe and apparel sales, according to the article.
Knight also looked to the future, naming some brands that Nike will be competition with in all facets of athletics.
“The industry has changed enormously. I’ll just say it’s grown and the companies that are in the industry are in more different areas than ever before,” Knight told USA Today. “So Under Armour is a very serious competitor, but Adidas is the next biggest and they’ve got a lot of money to spend and they have a lot of capability. We worry about them all. And it isn’t just shoes. In golf, we compete against Titleist. In women’s athletic gear, we compete against Lululemon, so we worry about them all.”
Nike announced back in June that Knight would transfer ownership of his company shares to Swoosh LLC, a limited-liability company that would hold the majority of his shares of Nike Class A Common Stock. The brand also announced Knight’s recommendation for his successor, Mark Parker, who has been Nike’s president and CEO since 2006.
“I have long felt a great responsibility to provide clarity and certainty for the long-term governance and leadership of Nike and for my ultimate transition as chairman,” Knight said in a release. “I have worked closely with the Nike board in developing this plan and in identifying the most qualified person to serve as my successor in this role. I believe Mark is the best choice.”