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Last Updated: Friday, 19 November, 2004, 00:16 GMT
Knight stands down as Nike boss
Nike chief executive Philip Knight
Nike's Philip Knight started selling running shoes from a station wagon
Philip Knight, co-founder of sportswear giant Nike, is stepping down as chief executive, marking the end of an era.

Mr Knight will be succeeded next month by William Perez, currently chief executive of SC Johnson and Sons.

Mr Knight, 66, will remain chairman of the board of directors of Nike, which sold goods worth $12bn in 2004 and employs 24,000 staff worldwide.

He co-founded what was to become Nike in 1962, selling running shoes from the back of his station wagon.

Nike's shares fell 1.1% to $85 after the news of Mr Knight's resignation filtered through to the market.

This begins an exciting new chapter in Nike's evolution
Philip Knight, Nike
His move from chief executive to chairman is highly unlikely to result in a change of direction for the Nike brand, whose products are immediately recognisable around the world.

Global success

"This begins an exciting new chapter in Nike's ongoing business evolution," Mr Knight said in a statement.

"Nike has enjoyed tremendous success as we have grown to become a $12bn global company."

Justin Gatlin
Justin Gatlin, the Olympic 100 metres champion, wore a Nike outfit
Mr Perez, 57, said the Nike brand was "one of the best managed on the globe".

"I was drawn to this company because the Nike brand perpetually stays current," he said.

"You can feel the innovative spirit that Phil and his team inspires from product design, to retail to athlete partnerships. And I am a strong believer in 'Just Do It'."

Mr Knight launched a retail firm in 1962 which was called Blue Ribbon Sports.

Ten years later, the firm was renamed as Nike and it has gone on to become one of the most famous brands in the world.

Thirty year history

The Oregon-based firm is now the world's leading designer and distributor of sporting footwear, clothing, equipment and other accessories.

Its clothing is endorsed by many of the world's leading sports stars including Tiger Woods.

Mr Perez has spent the past 34 years at SC Johnson, manufacturer of Windex and Scrubbing bubbles cleaners and has been chief executive since 1996.

Analysts stressed that Mr Knight's decision to step aside was a historic moment for the company, albeit one which was unlikely to affect Nike's direction.

His judgement has been solid on every major decision
John Jacqua, former director

"It's somewhat the passing of the torch," said Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon.

Solid judgement

"It's a natural transition, though a rather significant one in the history of this company."

John Horan, publisher of the Sporting Goods Intelligence newsletter, said: "Phil Knight is still such a presence at the company that I cannot imagine it will change the direction."

Nike has its critics, notably activists who condemn working conditions at Nike's overseas factories and say foreign workers are being exploited.

Nike has said conditions in its factories have improved.

John Jaqua, a former Nike director who left the company's board in September at the age of 88, said Mr Knight was "irreplaceable".

"He has had his finger in the pie very solidly," he said. "His judgement has been solid on every major decision."

How Philip Knight built-up sportswear giant Nike

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