Phil Knight’s announcement last week that he plans to relinquish his role as Nike chairman and move most of his company stock into a limited liability company was not surprising. He’s 77 and has focused increased attention in recent years on non-corporate matters, including University of Oregon sports and the Knight Cancer Institute. A little succession planning makes sense.
Knight and Nike have endured their share of controversy over the years – from scrutiny of labor practices at overseas factories to the current investigation into the company’s sponsorship deal with the Brazilian national soccer team. Knight also has been intensely private. And at times, he has flexed political muscle. How many people can convince a governor to call a special session just to address an issue – in this case tax rules – affecting his company?
But there should be no question that over the past 50-plus years Knight and his companies (Nike started as Blue Ribbon Sports) have been an overwhelmingly positive influence on Oregon. Nike has grown to be by far the largest Oregon-based business, has helped attract many other companies to Oregon, has donated millions to charity and has become an integral part of the state’s image. …