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 October 1, 2019, the company had a market cap of $115 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.

Key Takeaways

  • Nike is a household name for sneakers and athletic wear, which was founded in 1964.
  • The company was founded by Philip Knight and Bill Bowerman, who remain among the largest insider shareholders of the company.
  • Other large insider shareholders include the company's president (Philip Knight's son) and the chairman of the board.
  • Nearly 85% of the company's outstanding stock is held by institutional shareholders.

Philip Knight

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 Q3 2019, Knight held 20,273 shares directly and 36 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 2019, Swoosh LLC owned 255 million Class A Nike stock, though Travis Knight disclaims ownership of those shares.

Mark Parker

Nike’s chairman, president, and chief executive officer (CEO), Mark Parker, is the third-largest individual shareholder of Nike stock. As of Q3 2019, Parker holds nearly 2 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.

Trevor Edwards

The fourth-largest individual shareholder of Nike stock is Trevor Edwards, former the president of Nike Brand at Nike. As of Q3 2019, 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.

Institutional Shareholders

Outside of company insiders, nearly 85% of the shares held by the company are owned by institutional shareholders. The top 5 as of Q3 2019 are:

  1. Vanguard Group - 103.5M shares (8.27% of shares outstanding)
  2. Capital Research & Management Co.- 79.3M shares (6.35%)
  3. SSgA Funds Management - 59.5M shares (4.75%)
  4. Blackrock Advisors - 59.0M shares (4.7%)
  5. Wellington Mgmty. - 28M shares (2.24%)