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What Phil Knight told Oprah

May 3, 2011

By Oregon Small Business Association,

One of Oregon’s most important business leaders, Phil Knight of NIKE, recently spoke before a national audience on the Oprah Winfrey show and discussed his life, his business and his success.  Below are highlights of the interview:

On the Nike logo

KNIGHT: “Nike was the Greek goddess of victory. At that time we didn’t have the usual million dollars it would take to hire a professional marketing firm to create a design. As I was walking by the graphic arts department at Portland State University there was a student I overheard saying she didn’t know where she’d get the money for a dress to the prom. I said, “I have a job for you”. I paid her $2 an hour and she worked for 17 1/2 hours. So the swoosh cost us a total of $35. In 1980, when we went public, we gave her a few hundred shares of our stock which she’s held to this day, so she’s doing okay.”

On Michael Jordan

KNIGHT: “He was a great player, he was handsome, he was articulate, he was educated and he was perfect.”

On Tiger Woods

KNIGHT: “We think that athletes are human beings and have foibles like human beings do. He apologized to the company and everybody involved. We think the essence of Tiger Woods is basically very, very good, and over the long run, people will see that.”

On selling 80 million Livestrong wristbands which raised $93 million for cancer

KNIGHT: “We knew the industry would get bigger. We had no idea … we would compete as successfully as we have. It was all a labor of love in the early days and really to this day.”

On why NIKE became successful early on

KNIGHT: “The idea was that we can make shoes that runners want.”

On the loss of his son Mathew

KNIGHT: “It aged me much faster than anything you can imagine.”

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