Thursday, November 18, 2004
Reuters has reported that Philip Knight, co-founder of shoe giant Nike, Inc. will step down as the company’s CEO and President on December 28. He will be replaced by William Perez, current CEO of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.
While industry experts consider this to be a good move as the company looks to expand beyond its core market, analyst Jamelah Reddy expressed surprise that an individual from outside the company was brought in rather than tapping one of Nike’s co-presidents. Reddy said Knight was “leaving big shoes to fill.”
The move is a blow to activist organizations which have targeted the company for its use of sweatshop labor and other practices. For example, the progressive anti-consumerism magazine Adbusters recently introduced their “Black-Spot Sneaker” which they promote as being “for just one thing: kicking Phil Knight’s ass”.
Nike spokesman Kirk Stewart said Perez was chosen for his experience in dealing with international markets and brand-building, an important skill as Nike continues expansion internationally. Nike’s international sales now surpass domestic sales, reports Bloomberg.
According to ESPN, Knight was responsible for Nike’s endorsement contract with Michael Jordan, signed in 1984 when he was still a rookie with the Chicago Bulls. Jordan said of Knight, “To me, Phil Knight will always be recognized as a sports marketing visionary — he will always be a part of Nike. I learned so much about the industry from him and will always admire his drive and creativity.”
Knight, who according to Forbes gave no reason for his departure, intends to retain his position as the chairman of Nike’s board of directors. He will also hold on to his 28% voting share in the corporation, as well as his 92% share of the non-voting stock.