Business People

Phil Knight – Oregon’s Most Influential Businessman

Phil Knight

By PDX People

Phil Knight was born in Portland , Oregon, the son of lawyer turned newspaper publisher William W. Knight, and his wife Lota (Hatfield) Knight. Phil grew up in the Portland neighborhood of Eastmoreland, and attended Cleveland High School.

Before he became well-known around the world for being the co-founder of Nike, Phil Knight was just known as “Phil”, a talented middle-distance runner and writer who would be responsible for creating a shoe brand that literally changed the world.

Trip to Japan

After graduating from the University of Oregon, and serving in the Army, Phil Knight decided to travel around the world and stopped in Kobe Japan where he found the famous Kobe Brand of running shoes and was able to secure distribution rights for the western United States.

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Nike Origins

Upon his return to the United States Phil began to distribute Kobe shoes at track meets around the Pacific Northwest when he met Bill Bowerman and co-founded his company which would eventually be named Nike, after the Greek winged goddess of victory.

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Swoosh Logo

The iconic Swoosh logo was created by Carolyn Davidson for just $35 but over the years Knight reimbursed Davidson nicely, even giving her a few hundred shares of stock in the company once it went public.

Launching Nike

Knight’s goal with Nike was to do for shoes what Japanese cameras were already doing in the United States, he sensed a huge hole in the shoe market, capitalized on it, and the investment changed the world because Nike shoes aren’t just worn by distance runners or athletes like some brands, they are worn by people of all ages, races, and occupations in the world.

Phil Knight Today

At the age of 76 Phil Knight has finally stepped down from Nike but he hasn’t stepped away from public life since he’s also heavily invested in a wide variety of other businesses around the world and has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to the University of Oregon and many other charities.

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