Knight will leave behind a legacy of success at Nike


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At 77 Phil Knight has decided he can no longer “just do it” ™, and is stepping down as chairman of Nike, the staggeringly successful sportswear company he co-founded. Talk about leaving at the top. Nike shares are near an all-time high. It recently added the National Basketball Association to a stable of kit deals that includes the NFL and numerous top football clubs and international sides, including Manchester United and City, Barcelona, Brazil and England (well, at least England’s women are proving themselves worthy of that description). The famous “swoosh” logo also adorns the kit of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Serena Williams – currently on display at Wimbledon. A high proportion of people brave or foolhardy enough to take exercise in the current heatwave will be wearing Nike gear (including the writer).

But Knight’s Nike legacy is a mixed one. While it has achieved stunning financial success, it was once the poster child for all that was bad about globalisation.

More recently the company has made some efforts to clean up its act, and has been receiving high marks in some quarters for its environmental initiatives. However, it is rather depressing that some of the worst practices indulged in by firms it has outsourced production to in the past might have been dealt with by automating the jobs of exploited workers.

Still, part of the reason for the improvements that have been made is because Nike is nothing if not sensitive towards the reputation of that all-powerful brand. Knight built his hugely successful company on making people want to be seen wearing that swoosh. Pressure from them will hopefully ensure Nike keeps on getting nicer during his retirement.