EUGENE, OR - JUNE 30: Co-founder and chairman of Nike, Phil Knight attends day nine of the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at the Hayward Field on June 30, 2012 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Photograph by Christian Petersen — Getty Images
By Phil Wahba
June 30, 2015

Nike (NKE) co-founder Phil Knight said on Tuesday that he is stepping down as the sports gear giant’s chairman next year.

Knight, 77, wants to stay involved with Nike after he steps down as chairman. The iconic businessman will transfer ownership of his shares in the company to a limited liability entity, Nike said in a statement. Nike also is appointing Travis Knight, his 41-year-old son, to the board.

“For me, Nike has always been more than just a company — it has been my life’s passion,” Phil Knight said in the statement. He wants current CEO Mark Parker to succeed him as chairman

Knight, père, was president of Nike from 1968 to 1990, except for a period from June 1983 to September 1984, and again from June 2000 to 2004. Parker, president and CEO since 2006, joined Nike in 1979 as a footwear designer and has served in roles such as vice president of consumer product marketing and co-president as he climbed up the corporate ladder.

Knight helped found Nike as Blue Ribbon Sports in 1964, its first step on the way to becoming the world’s largest sporting-goods company, while its trademark Swoosh became part of popular culture and one of the most recognizable brands in the world.

Knight’s newly formed company, Swoosh LLC, will hold the majority of his Class A Nike shares. Knight contributed 128.5 million Class A shares to the entity, or about 15% of the total outstanding Class A and Class B stock. The entity will have a structure “designed to make thoughtful and forward-looking decisions with respect to the ongoing voting and management of those shares,” Knight said.

In its most recent quarter, Nike reported a 5% increase in revenue despite deeply unfavorable currency exchange rates as it continued to steal market share from Adidas.

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