The iconic global athletic shoe and apparel company, Nike, Inc. (NYSE: NKE), was founded in 1964 by a track and field coach and a student athlete with a strong business background. Nike founders Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight met as Knight sought training from Bowerman for middle-distance track. Coach Bowerman consistently tried to find ways to improve the abilities and performance of his players through various experiments to innovate running shoes. While Bowerman’s numerous attempts did not accomplish the goals he sought, it gave the new MBA-grad Phil Knight an idea to manufacture shoes in Japan to compete with the largely German-dominated running shoe market.
While many chose to discount Knight’s idea, Bill Bowerman believed in it, and they eventually formed Blue Ribbon Sports together. Blue Ribbon Sports would later be known as Nike and grow to be the company that is so popular today. As of September 25, 2018, the company has a market cap of $135 billion.
As Nike continues to show impressive growth, the athletic company’s top shareholders are major beneficiaries. Nike offers two share classes, however Class A shares are convertible to Class B on a share-for-share basis. The following figures are based on the company's latest proxy filings and individual Form 4 filings with the SEC.
Philip Knight founded Nike with his track coach — Bill Bowerman — in 1964, chipping in $500 each. He retired as the company's chairman after 52 years in June 2016 and was appointed to be the chairman emeritus — an observing, non-voting board member. He's the second-largest shareholder with his 26 million Class A shares and 19.1 million Class B shares. He is also a director of the Knight Foundation that owns 2.8 million Class B shares, though Knight has disclaimed beneficial ownership of those shares.
Travis A. Knight
Nike founder Phil Knight's son and President and Chief Executive Officer of the animation studio, LAIKA, Travis Knight is the largest shareholder in Nike. According to company filings, as of September 20, 2018 Knight held 20,273 shares directly and 38.85 million Class A Nike shares through Travis A. Knight 2009 Irrevocable Trust II and a subsidiary of the Trust.
In 2015, as a part of his success plan Phil Knight created Swoosh LLC, contributing 128.5 million Class A Nike stock or 15% of the combined outstanding Class A and Class B shares at that time. In June 2016, a subsidiary of Travis Knights' Trust acquired all voting units within Swoosh LLC in a private transaction. As of June 30, 2018 Swoosh LLC owned 255 million Class A Nike stock, though Travis Knight disclaims ownership of those shares.
Nike’s chairman, president and chief executive officer (CEO), Mark Parker, is the third-largest individual shareholder of Nike stock. As of June 2018, Parker holds nearly 4.9 million shares. Parker has been the president, director and CEO of Nike since January 2006, and has been employed by the company since 1979. Parker’s time as CEO has been an absolute success, as Nike has seen its market cap more than double in size. Much of Parker’s success comes from his focus on a portfolio of international brands, such as Nike Bauer Hockey, Cole Haan, Converse and Hurley International. In addition, Mark Parker joined The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) as a director in January 2016.
The fourth-largest individual shareholder of Nike stock is Trevor Edwards, former the president of Nike Brand at Nike. As of June 2018, Edwards held nearly 1.79 million shares. He served as the president of Nike Brand since July 2013 and has an extensive record of management positions at Nike. Edwards originally joined Nike in 1992 and also gained previous executive management experience at Colgate-Palmolive Company (NYSE: CL) and Foot Locker Inc. (NYSE: FL). Edwards left the company in August 2018 due to accusations made against him regarding improper workplace conduct.