Quantfury Daily Gazette


Nike: beyond Phil Knight to Travis Knight?

Enmanuel Cardozo
Quantfury Product Communication Team

Nike Inc (NYSE: NKE), the globally recognized athletic footwear and apparel corporation, has been without a doubt linked with its co-founder, Phil Knight, since it was established in 1964. Like many successful companies that have redefined their industries, Nike has always been led by its charismatic founder, Phil Knight, who built a brand worth over $160 billion, demonstrating his visionary mindset and audacious entrepreneurial spirit. However, as Knight recently turned 85, concerns are surfacing about the impact of his eventual retirement on Nike’s future. Whom, if anyone, can fill Phil’s shoes? And should we be anxious about Nike’s future without him? The immediate answer to these questions could lie within Knight’s inner circle, such as his children and long-term colleagues. After all, Apple got Tim Cook, so what about Nike?

Despite Nike’s success, Phil faced a personal tragedy in 2004 when he lost his eldest son, Matthew, in a scuba diving accident. This left his youngest son, Travis, as the only heir to the family’s empire.

The Travis Knight Trust is currently the largest shareholder of Nike Inc (NYSE: NKE), owning 17.8% of its shares. But is Travis just an ordinary billionaire’s son? At the age of 19, he embarked on a career as a rapper, going by the stage name “Chilly Tee.” Utilizing a recording studio within his father’s vast mansion, Travis independently created a five-track demo album. This demo caught the attention of Bernie Singleton, the president of MCA Records, who passed it onto the producer, Hank Shocklee. Recognizing Travis’s potential, Shocklee decided to produce Travis’s first album with his own production team, The Bomb Squad.

Upon graduating from Portland State University, Phil Knight invested in Will Vinton Studios and persuaded the company to hire Travis as an intern. His duties varied from working on television series like The PJs for Fox Studios and Gary & Mike on UPN, to crafting television commercials and promotional spots.

By 2003, Phil Knight had become a major shareholder in Will Vinton Studios, leading to Travis’s promotion to the board of directors, despite his lack of management experience. Following Vinton’s departure, the Knights undertook a restructuring process to salvage the struggling studio, leading to the birth of Laika.

Since 2005, Travis has been committed to his role as Laika’s Vice President of Animation, acting both as a producer and the lead animator for notable projects such as Coraline (2009), ParaNorman (2012), and The Boxtrolls (2014). And guess what? Travis, along with Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable, received a nomination for Best Animated Feature at the esteemed Academy Awards for their work on The Boxtrolls.

In 2014, Shannon Tindle proposed a fantasy project revolving around ‘samurais’ to Travis. As an ardent fan of fantasy films, Travis approved its development. The project was publicly announced in December 2014 as Kubo and the Two Strings, with Travis serving as both producer and director, marking his directorial debut. The eagerly awaited film was released in 2016. And lo and behold, guess what? Once again, Travis, along with Arianne Sutner, found themselves in nomination for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards. This time for their work on Kubo and the Two Strings.

On March 2, 2017, it was announced that Travis would direct the live-action film Bumblebee, representing a reboot of the Transformers film series. This marked Travis’s first foray into directing a live-action film and his first time working on a film without also being its producer. An aficionado of the G1 version of the franchise, Travis incorporated many elements from that version into the film. Released on December 21, 2018, Bumblebee was greeted with a positive reception from both critics and Transformers fans, with many praising it as the best film in the franchise.

It’s clear that Travis Knight is a creative, driven individual who not only understands the production and creative processes but also knows how to monetize them for mass-market products with widespread commercial success. And if that’s not enough, here’s a crucial detail – since 2015, Travis has been a member of the board of directors of his father’s company, Nike Inc (NYSE: NKE).

Therefore, the future of Nike could take an intriguing turn if it were to be directed, produced, and ultimately shaped… by Travis Knight.


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