Phil Knight

Philip Hampson Knight was born on February 24, 1938. He is an American businessman, co-founder, and chairman emeritus of Nike Inc. He was previously the chairman and CEO of the company. As of October 3, 2022, Knight was ranked by Forbes as the 27th richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of $35.2 billion. Knight has donated hundreds of millions of dollars, to each of his alma maters, as well as Oregon Health & Science University. He has been reported to have donated over $2 billion to three institutions.

Early life

Phil Knight was born in Portland, Oregon to Bill Knight, a lawyer turned newspaper publisher, and his wife, Lota Cloy Knight. Knight grew up in the Portland neighborhood of Eastmoreland and attended Cleveland High School. Knight continued his education at the University of Oregon in Eugene, where he is a graduate brother of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. He was also a sports reporter for the Oregon Daily Emerald. He earned a business degree (B.B.A.) in 1959. That same year, Knight also received his Army Reserve Commission and was considered a “Distinguished Military Graduate.”


Before Blue Ribbon sports (which would later become Nike), Knight was a CPA, first with Coopers and Lybrand and then with Price Waterhouse. Knight then became an accounting professor at Portland State University.

Immediately after graduating from the University of Oregon, Knight enlisted in the army and served one year on active duty and seven years in the Army Reserve. He next enrolled at Stanford Graduate School of Business, where, for his small business class, Knight wrote a paper: “Can Japanese Sports Shoes Do to German Sports Shoes What Japanese Cameras Did to German Cameras?” The paper essentially premised his eventual foray into selling running shoes. His ambition was to import high-quality and low-cost running shoes from Japan and into the American market. He later graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from Stanford in 1962.

Knight later set out on a trip around the world after his graduation, during which he made a stop in Kobe, Japan, in November 1962. It was there that he discovered Tiger brand running shoes, manufactured in Kobe by the Onitsuka Co., now known as Asics. Impressed by the quality and low cost of the shoes, Knight called Mr. Onitsuka, who agreed to meet with him. By the end of the meeting, Knight secured Tiger distribution rights for the western United States.

The first of the Tiger samples would take more than a year to be shipped to Knight, during said time, he found a job as an accountant in Portland. When Knight finally received the shoe samples, he mailed two pairs to Bowerman at the University of Oregon with the hopes to gain both a sale and an influential endorsement. To Knight’s surprise, Bowerman not only ordered the Tiger shoes, but also offered to become a partner with Knight and provide product designs. The two men then agreed to a partnership via handshake on January 25, 1964. This was the birth of Blue Ribbon Sports, the company that would later become Nike.

Knight’s first sales were made out of now-storied green Plymouth Valiant automobile at track meets across the Pacific Northwest. By 1969, these early sales allowed Knight to leave his accountant job and work full-time for Blue Ribbon Sports.

Jeff Johnson, Nike’s first employee, suggested calling the firm “Nike” after the Greek winged goddess of victory, and subsequently, the company was renamed Nike in 1971. Nike’s signature “swoosh” logo, now considered one of the most recognizable logos in the world, was commissioned for $35 dollars from a graphic design student Carolyn Davidson in 1971. According to the Nike website, Knight said at the time: “I don’t love it, but it will grow on me.” In September 1983, Davidson was given an undisclosed amount of Nike stock for her contribution to the company’s brand. On the Oprah Winfrey show, in April 2011, Knight claimed she gave Davidson “A few hundred shares” when the company went public.

At Nike, Knight developed personal relationships with some of the world’s most recognizable athletes, including Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.

Net Worth

$35.2 billion


In 2000, Knight was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame for his Special Contribution to Sports in Oregon. He had contributed approximately US$230 million to UO, the majority of which was for athletics.
On February 24, 2012, Knight was announced as a 2012 inductee of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, as a contributor. The Hall recognized him as the driving force behind Nike's huge financial support of U.S. basketball and its players. Knight was formally inducted on September 7, 2012.
In 1989, Knight received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement. For his: "contributions to business, corporate and philanthropic leadership", Knight was elected to the 2015 American Academy of Arts and Sciences membership class.