Who is Phil Knight - The Richest Person in Oregon?
Who is Phil Knight - The Richest Person in Oregon?

Who is Phil Knight, the richest person of Oregon? What does he do and his secret to success? Check out below!

Who is Phil Knight - Biography

Phil Knight (Philip Hampson Knight) is the co-founder and the biggest stakeholder of Nike, formerly known as Blue Ribbon Sports, which has more than 1,100 branches across the globe. The company, which is considered the largest creator of athletic shoes and sports apparel, also includes brands like Jordan, Cole Haan, and Converse. Knight serves as the chairman emeritus at Nike, Inc and is one of the board of directors of the corporation.

He was ranked as No. 28 in Forbes Magazines’ list of richest people in the world and is reported to have an estimated net worth of $62.5 billion. Apart from Nike, Knight also owns Laika, which is a stop motion film production company.

Famous Quote:

“We wanted Nike to be the world’s best sports and fitness company. Once you say that, you have a focus. You don’t end up making wing tips or sponsoring the next Rolling Stones world tour. Play by the rules, but be ferocious.” - Phil Knight

As a college student, he was confused about his future and tried his hand working at different jobs before realizing what he actually wanted to do. He served in the army for some time and also worked as an assistant professor at Portland State University (PSU). It was only when he enrolled at the Stanford Graduate School of Business that his life purpose-made itself clear to him.

While working on a college assignment he came up with the idea for a sports shoe company and realized that he had found his calling. He teamed up with his former track coach, Bill Bowerman, and the duo started out by selling Japanese-made running shoes in America. Eventually, their business evolved into what is today one of the most famous brands of sports apparel, Nike.

Phil Knight - Early Life

Phil Knight was born in Portland, Oregon, on February 24, 1938. His parents are Lota Knight (née Hatfield) and Bill Knight, who was a lawyer and later a newspaper publisher. Knight was raised in the Portland neighborhood of Eastmoreland and graduated from Cleveland High School. He then continued his education at the University of Oregon, Where he was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, worked as a sports reporter for the Oregon Daily Emerald, and was a middle-distance runner. He graduated from college in 1959 with a degree in journalism.

Knight began his career working as a Certified Public Accountant, firstly with Coopers & Lybrand, and then price Waterhouse. He then became an accounting professor at Portland State University.

After graduating from the University of Oregon, Knight enlisted in the Army and served one year on active duty. After one year of active duty, he enrolled at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Who is Phil Knight - The Richest Person in Oregon?
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Personal Life

He married Penelope "Penny" Parks in September 1968. They had four children, of whom one son, Matthew, died in a diving accident in 2004.

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Phil Knight - Career: Follow the footsteps of the 'Shoe Dog' billionaire!

Phil Knight embarked on a trip around the world following his graduation. He visited Japan in November 1962 where he discovered the Tiger-brand running shoes which were manufactured by Onitsuka Co. Knight was highly impressed by the high quality and low cost of the shoes and quickly secured a distribution contract with the company.

On his return, he took up a job in a Portland-based accounting firm while working on his business plan alongside. He collaborated with his former coach Bowerman to form a partnership to distribute the shoes in America, and thus the company Blue Ribbon Sports was born in 1964.

The duo worked hard to make the business grow and over the next few years, they opened retail stores in Santa Monica, California, and Eugene, Oregon. The company performed well and by the late 1960s was generating good profits.

Knight and Bowerman faced some disagreements regarding the contract with Onitsuka in 1971 and decided to start their own company. Jeff Johnson, a friend of Knight and an employee of Blue Ribbon Sports suggested naming the new company “Nike” after the Greek winged goddess of victory.

As a former athlete, Knight aspired to design products that the world’s top athletes would want to use. He made acquaintances with Olympic track athletes, such as the long-distance runner Steve Prefontaine, hoping he would influence others to try his products. Nike’s model of shoe, the Cortez, debuted at the 1972 Olympic trials and proved to be highly profitable.

The company’s profits grew manifold over the ensuing years and by 1980 Nike had captured one-half of the athletic shoe market. Knight offered an endorsement deal to the tennis superstar John McEnroe, and this proved to be one of his best marketing moves. After McEnroe hurt his ankle, he started wearing a particular Nike model and the sales of that model surged in the months to come.

Nike saw steady growth throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The company’s escalating fame allowed Knight to rope in more world-famous sportspeople like Michael Jordan, Andre Agassi, Charles Barkley, and Tiger Woods for endorsements.

Who is Phil Knight - The Richest Person in Oregon?
Photo: GeekTyrant

Along with tremendous success, Knight also came under the scrutiny of human rights groups over how Nike treated its workers in Asian countries. Nike was accused of paying very low wages to its Asian workers, and there were also accusations of corporal punishment and sexual harassment in Nike facilities. In spite of the criticisms, Nike remained one of the world’s largest shoemakers.

In the 1990s, Nike expanded its business and branched out into hockey, golf, and soccer apparel. Their aggressive expansion strategy paid off and the company enjoyed more than $10 billion in yearly sales before 1999.

Phil Knight resigned as the CEO of Nike in November 2004 though he continued as the chairman of the board. He announced in June 2015 that he would step down as the company's chairman though he did not specify a date.

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Awards & Achievements

In 2000, Knight was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame for his Special Contribution to Sports in Oregon.

In 2012, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor for being the driving force behind Nike's huge financial support of U.S. basketball and its players.

Phil Knight - Philanthropic Works:

Knight donated US $105 million to the Stanford GSB in 2006, which was at that time the largest ever individual donation to an American business school.

Along with his wife, he pledged US $100 million to the OHSU Cancer Institute in 2008 which was later renamed "OHSU Knight Cancer Institute" in his honor.

In 2012, Knight contributed US $65,000 to the higher education Political Action Committee (PAC) which aims to facilitate an increase in the autonomy of schools in the Oregon University System.

Phil Knight - Networth 2021: $62 Billion

Who is Phil Knight - The Richest Person in Oregon?
Photo: Forbes


• Phil Knight, the founder of shoe giant Nike, retired as chairman in June 2016 after 52 years at the company.

• Knight ran track at the University of Oregon and created Nike shoes with his former track coach, Bill Bowerman.

• In 1964, they each put up $500 to start what would become Nike, then called Blue Ribbon Sports.

• Today Nike's revenues top S37 billion.

• Knight has pledged over $500 million in donations to both the University of Oregon and Stanford's

• Graduate School of Business, his alma maters.

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