Phil Knight

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Who is Phil Knight?

Phil Knight

Phil Knight is a name that is synonymous with sports and business success. He is the co-founder and former CEO of Nike, one of the most recognizable and successful athletic brands in the world.

Born in 1938 in Portland, Oregon, Knight was an accomplished athlete and entrepreneur from a young age. He went on to attend the University of Oregon, where he first met his future business partner, Bill Bowerman. Together, they founded Nike in 1964, starting out as a small shoe distributor before transforming into the global brand it is today.

Knight’s leadership and innovative vision were instrumental in Nike’s success, as he transformed the company into a multibillion-dollar empire.

Phil Knight’s legacy extends far beyond his business success. His contributions to the world of sports and business have made him a true icon, and his legacy will continue to inspire and motivate generations to come.

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Phil Knight Personal Info

Name: Phil Knight
DOB: February 24, 1938
Birthplace: Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.
Education: University of Oregon, Stanford Graduate School of Business
Wife/Partner: Penelope Parks
Hometown: Hillsboro, Oregon
Famous As: The co-founder of Nike, a company that started as a small shoe distributor and transformed into a multibillion-dollar empire, revolutionizing the athletic footwear industry along the way.

Phil Knight’s Early Life

Phil Knight was born on February 24, 1938, in Portland, Oregon. His parents, William W. Knight and Lota Hatfield Knight, were both from prominent families in Oregon. His father was a successful lawyer and his mother was a homemaker.

Growing up, Knight was an active child and participated in a variety of sports, including baseball, football, and track. He was a member of the track and field team, where he was known for his exceptional speed and endurance. He also earned excellent grades and was a member of the National Honor Society.

Knight continued his athletic career as a member of the track and field team in college. He quickly distinguished himself as a talented runner and set several school records during his time at the university.

Knight’s upbringing was characterized by a strong work ethic and a commitment to excellence. His father instilled in him a belief in the value of hard work and determination, and Knight’s early experiences in sports and academics helped to shape his competitive spirit and drive for success.

Phil Knight’s early exposure to sports and his family’s emphasis on hard work and excellence laid the foundation for his future success as a businessman and entrepreneur.

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Phil Knight’s Education

Phil Knight’s education played a crucial role in shaping his path to success. After graduating from Cleveland High School in Portland, Oregon, Knight attended the University of Oregon, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism in 1959. During his time at the university, Knight was a standout athlete on the track and field team, earning several accolades and setting school records in the process.

After completing his undergraduate degree, Knight continued his education at Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he earned an MBA in 1962. At Stanford, Knight was particularly influenced by the teachings of marketing professor Frank Buck, who stressed the importance of understanding consumer needs and behavior.

Knight’s education at Stanford also played a role in his decision to start his own business. While taking a course on small business management, Knight wrote a paper proposing a business plan for a sports shoe company. This paper served as the foundation for what would later become Nike.

Knight’s education was characterized by a strong focus on academics and athletics, both of which played a role in shaping his future career. His exposure to business and marketing concepts at Stanford helped to shape his approach to entrepreneurship, while his experience as a standout athlete instilled in him a competitive spirit and a commitment to excellence.

Phil Knight’s Career

Phil Knight’s career spanned several decades. His career can be divided into several key phases, including his early career in sports and entrepreneurship, the founding of Nike, and his leadership style as CEO of the company.

Early Career in Sports and Entrepreneurship

After completing his MBA at Stanford, Knight traveled to Japan, where he began importing Japanese athletic shoes to the United States. This early foray into entrepreneurship proved successful, and Knight eventually founded his own company, Blue Ribbon Sports, in 1964. The company began as a distributor for Japanese shoe company Onitsuka Tiger, and Knight and his co-founder Bill Bowerman sold the shoes out of the trunk of Knight’s car.

Founding of Nike

In 1971, Knight and Bowerman parted ways with Onitsuka Tiger and rebranded their company as Nike, Inc. The name was inspired by the Greek goddess of victory, and it reflected Knight’s ambition to create a global brand that would dominate the athletic footwear industry. Under Knight’s leadership, Nike grew rapidly, becoming one of the most recognizable and successful brands in the world. Knight was known for his innovative marketing strategies, which included endorsements from high-profile athletes like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, as well as the creation of iconic slogans like “Just Do It.”

Phil Knight’s Leadership Style

Knight’s leadership style was characterized by a focus on innovation, risk-taking, and a commitment to excellence. He was known for encouraging his employees to take risks and pursue new ideas, and he created a corporate culture that valued creativity and innovation.

Knight was known for being hands-on and involved in all aspects of the business. He was a strong believer in the power of collaboration and teamwork. He was also known for being a demanding boss, with high expectations for his employees. Despite this, Knight was widely respected and admired for his vision and leadership, and his contributions to the world of sports and business have had a lasting impact on both industries.


Phil Knight’s career was characterized by his entrepreneurial spirit, innovative vision, and commitment to excellence. His contributions to the world of sports and business have made him a true icon.

Phil Knight’s Net Worth

Phil Knight has a real-time net worth of $47.6 billion, according to Forbes on March 22, 2023.

Knight’s wealth is primarily derived from his ownership of Nike, the iconic sports apparel and footwear brand that he co-founded and led as CEO for many years. Knight’s ownership stake in Nike has made him one of the wealthiest individuals in the world, and he has used his wealth to make significant philanthropic contributions throughout his career.

Despite his immense wealth, Knight is known for his humble demeanor and his commitment to giving back to the community, and his philanthropic contributions have had a lasting impact on the world.

Phil Knight’s Personal Life

Phil Knight’s personal life has been marked by a deep commitment to family, a love of sports and fitness, and a passion for philanthropy. He has described his family as the most important thing in his life, and he has made a concerted effort to balance his professional obligations with his personal commitments.

Knight’s personality is often described as driven, ambitious, and fiercely competitive. He has been known to take risks and pursue new ideas with enthusiasm, and his entrepreneurial spirit has been a defining characteristic throughout his career.

Despite his competitive nature, Knight is known for his kindness and generosity. He has used his wealth and influence to make significant philanthropic contributions over the years.

In his free time, Knight is an avid runner and fitness enthusiast, and he has been known to participate in marathons and other endurance events. He is also a fan of sports in general, and he has been a passionate supporter of the University of Oregon’s athletic programs, particularly the track and field team. Knight is also an avid reader and is known for his intellectual curiosity and love of learning.

Phil Knight’s personality is marked by a competitive spirit and a willingness to take risks, but he is also known for his kindness, generosity, and intellectual curiosity.

Phil Knight Parents

Phil Knight’s parents were William W. Knight and Lota Hatfield Knight.

William Knight was a well-respected figure in the community and was known for his work as a lawyer and a civic leader. He served as the president of the Oregon State Bar Association and was also involved in numerous community organizations, including the Portland Art Museum and the Portland Symphony Orchestra. William was known for his intelligence, work ethic, and dedication to public service, and he instilled these values in his children.

Lota Knight was a homemaker and a loving mother to Phil and his siblings. She was an important influence on Phil’s life. She was known for her kindness, warmth, and nurturing spirit, and she provided a stable and loving home environment for Phil and his siblings. Lota was a devout Christian, and she instilled her faith in her children, encouraging them to be compassionate and to give back to their community.

Phil Knight’s parents were a significant influence on his life and career. Their support and encouragement helped to shape Phil’s character and values, and he has credited them with providing the foundation for his success in both business and life.

Phil Knight Siblings

Phil Knight grew up with two siblings: his older brother, Bill Knight, and his younger sister, Joanne Knight.

Bill Knight

Bill Knight was a significant influence on Phil’s life and career. Like their father, Bill was a successful lawyer and businessman, and he served as a role model for Phil as he pursued his career in business. Bill was known for his intelligence, his work ethic, and his commitment to public service, and he instilled these values in Phil from a young age. Phil has described his brother as a “tough, no-nonsense mentor” who pushed him to be his best.

Joanne Knight

Joanne Knight was also an important influence on Phil’s life. As his younger sister, she looked up to Phil and admired his drive and ambition. Joanne was known for her kindness and her artistic talents, and she provided a creative counterbalance to Phil’s more analytical approach to life.

According to Phil, Joanne helped him to appreciate the importance of art and culture, and her influence can be seen in his later philanthropic efforts to support the arts.

Phil Knight’s siblings played a significant role in shaping his character and values. Together, they helped to create a supportive and nurturing family environment that provided a strong foundation for Phil’s later success.

Phil Knight’s Wife (Partner)

Phil Knight Biography

Phil Knight has been married to his wife, Penelope Parks, since September 13, 1968. The couple met while Phil was attending Stanford University and Penelope was a student at nearby San Jose State University. They married in Portland, Oregon, and have been together for more than five decades.

Penelope, who goes by the nickname “Penny,” has been a significant influence on Phil’s life and career. She has been a supportive partner throughout their marriage, providing emotional support and encouragement as Phil pursued his entrepreneurial ventures. She has also been an active philanthropist in her own right, supporting causes related to education, healthcare, and the arts.

According to Phil, his family has been the most important thing in his life. Despite the demands of his business career, Phil has always made time for his family, and he has described his wife and children as his greatest source of joy and inspiration.

Phil Knight’s marriage to Penelope Parks has been a defining feature of his personal life. Their long and successful partnership has provided a foundation of support and encouragement for Phil throughout his career, and their shared commitment to philanthropy has helped to make a positive impact on the world.

Phil Knight Children

Phil Knight and his wife Penelope have three children: Matthew, Travis, and Christina.

Matthew Knight

Matthew was born in 1972 and is the eldest of the Knight children. He attended Stanford University, where he played basketball and earned a degree in history. After graduation, Matthew worked for Nike as a product manager for several years before leaving to pursue other opportunities. He has since founded his venture capital firm, Knight Investment Partners, and has been involved in several successful startups in the tech and media industries.

Travis Knight

Travis was born in 1973 and is the second of the Knight children. He also attended Stanford University, where he studied film and animation. After graduation, Travis worked for Nike as a marketing executive before transitioning to the film industry. He is best known for his work as an animator and director for the animation studio Laika. He has directed several award-winning films, including “Kubo and the Two Strings” and “The Boxtrolls.”


Christina Knight

Christina was born in 1983 and is the youngest of the Knight children. She attended Duke University, where she studied public policy and economics. After graduation, Christina worked for Nike as a marketing manager before leaving to pursue other opportunities. She has since worked in a variety of roles, including as a consultant for McKinsey & Company and as a senior executive at a healthcare technology startup.

Phil Knight’s children have followed in their father’s footsteps in many ways, pursuing careers in business, media, and technology. Their successes are a testament to the values and work ethic instilled in them by their parents, and they represent the next generation of the Knight family’s legacy.

Phil Knight’s Challenges and Obstacles

Phil Knight faced several challenges and obstacles throughout his life, including those related to the early days of founding Nike.

One of the first challenges that Phil faced was related to his family’s financial situation. Growing up, Phil’s family struggled to make ends meet, and he had to work hard to earn scholarships and part-time jobs to pay for his education. Despite these challenges, Phil was determined to succeed and worked tirelessly to achieve his goals.

After graduating from college, Phil faced another obstacle when he was drafted into the US Army and deployed to Fort Lewis, Washington. While in the Army, Phil was able to hone his leadership skills and gain valuable experience that would later serve him well in his business career.

In the early days of founding Nike, Phil faced several challenges related to funding, manufacturing, and distribution. At first, he struggled to secure funding for his business, and he had to rely on personal loans and investments from friends and family to get started. He also faced challenges related to manufacturing, as he had to work with overseas suppliers to produce his shoes and ensure that they met his quality standards.

Another major challenge that Phil faced was related to distribution. Initially, he struggled to get his shoes into retail stores, and he had to rely on direct sales to consumers to generate revenue. However, he eventually developed a successful distribution strategy that involved partnering with retailers and sponsoring high-profile athletes to promote his brand.

Throughout his career, Phil faced numerous other challenges and obstacles, including legal disputes, production issues, and changes in consumer preferences. However, he was able to overcome these challenges through hard work, perseverance, and a willingness to adapt and innovate. His resilience and determination serve as an inspiration to entrepreneurs and business leaders around the world.

Phil Knight Accomplishments

Phil Knight has accomplished a great deal throughout his career, including the following:

  1. Founding Nike: Phil Knight co-founded Nike (originally called Blue Ribbon Sports) in 1964 with his former track coach Bill Bowerman. The company started as a small distributor of Japanese-made running shoes, but it quickly grew into one of the world’s most recognized and successful athletic apparel and footwear brands.
  2. Building a global brand: Under Phil Knight’s leadership, Nike became a global brand, with operations in more than 190 countries and revenues of over $37 billion in 2020. The company is known for its innovative products, iconic branding, and sponsorship of high-profile athletes and sports teams.
  3. Revolutionizing the sports industry: Phil Knight is widely credited with revolutionizing the sports industry, particularly in the areas of sports marketing and athlete endorsement deals. Nike was one of the first companies to use celebrity athletes to promote its products, and its “Just Do It” campaign has become one of the most recognizable slogans in the world.
  4. Philanthropy: Phil Knight and his wife Penelope are known for their philanthropic efforts, particularly in the areas of education and healthcare. They have donated millions of dollars to universities, hospitals, and charitable organizations, and they have established several charitable foundations to support their causes.
  5. Leadership: Phil Knight is widely regarded as a visionary leader who was able to inspire and motivate his employees to achieve great things. He was known for his hands-on approach to management, his willingness to take risks, and his ability to cultivate a culture of innovation and creativity.

Phil Knight’s accomplishments are a testament to his entrepreneurial spirit, his leadership skills, and his commitment to innovation and creativity.

Phil Knight Recognition and Awards

Phil Knight has received numerous awards and recognition throughout his career, including:

  • Phil Knight has been included on the Forbes 400 list of the richest people in America several times.
  • Phil Knight was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2012 in recognition of his support for track and field athletics and his contributions to the sport.
  • Phil Knight was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 2000 in recognition of his contributions to sports marketing and his support for athletic programs in Oregon.
  • In 1998, Phil Knight was inducted into the Business Hall of Fame, which honors individuals who have made significant contributions to the American business community.
  • In 1993, Phil Knight received the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award, which is presented to former college athletes who have made significant contributions to their communities and professions.
  • Phil Knight has received numerous honorary degrees from universities around the world, including Stanford University, Harvard University, and the University of Oregon.
  • Phil Knight and his wife Penelope have received numerous awards and recognition for their philanthropic efforts, including the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy and the Portland First Citizen Award.

Phil Knight is an iconic figure in the business and sports world who built one of the world’s most recognizable brands and revolutionized the sports industry through innovative marketing and athlete endorsements.

Phil Knight’s life and legacy are a testament to the power of determination, hard work, and a willingness to take risks in pursuit of one’s goals. His story will continue to inspire future generations of entrepreneurs, athletes, and leaders for years to come.

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