Nike founder Phil Knight is stepping down as chairman

Phil Knight waves goodbye to 40-plus years at Nike.
Phil Knight waves goodbye to 40-plus years at Nike.
Image: AP/Chris Pietsch
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Phil Knight, the legendary co-founder of Nike, plans to step down from the board in 2016 and said he’s recommended current CEO Mark Parker, whom Knight has groomed over the past decade, to replace him as chairman.

While the move marks a big change at the company, Knight, the middle-distance runner from the University of Oregon who worked alongside legendary coach Bill Bowerman to turn Nike into the world’s largest sportswear company, will maintain quite a bit of influence as Nike’s largest shareholder.

“For me, Nike has always been more than just a company—it has been my life’s passion,” Knight said Tuesday (June 30) in a statement issued by the company.

Knight, who still owns 15% of the company’s shares, said he would transfer the holdings—128.5 million shares—into a separate entity aptly named Swoosh, with a separate board of directors to govern it. (It’s a Nike-heavy board, though, consisting of Knight, Parker, and Nike board members John Donahoe, the former eBay CEO, and Alan Graf, FedEx CFO.)

Parker is only the third CEO to helm Nike, and it’s unlikely he’ll make any big waves at the company as Knight steps down as chairman. As part of the management shuffle, the company also announced it has appointed Knight’s 41-year-old son, Travis Knight, to the Nike board of directors.