Nike Inc. co-founder Philip Knight, who helped transform a small start-up into the world's biggest athletic shoe company, will step down as chief executive, the company said Thursday.
Beaverton, Ore.-based Nike named William Perez, who ran consumer products company S.C. Johnson & Son Inc., as CEO and president effective Dec. 28. Knight, who will also give up his title of president, plans to remain Nike's chairman of the board.
"In the near term, I will focus my efforts on ensuring an effective transition and on evolving into my role as an active chairman," Knight said.
Analysts said they did not expect to see any strategic shifts given Nike's strong corporate culture and the fact that Knight would remain as chairman and had not had a hands-on management role for some time.
Nike shares were off slightly at $84.25 in after-hours trading on INET after closing down 99 cents at $85 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Knight co-founded Blue Ribbon Sports Inc. in 1962 with Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman, and his first job was selling track shoes from the trunk of his car.
He renamed the company Nike in 1972, and since then it has grown into a $12.3-billion business and has outmuscled rivals such as Reebok International Ltd. and Adidas in the key U.S. market.
Knight helped turn the simple tennis shoe into an iconic fashion symbol worn by the world's most famous athletes and helped revolutionize the sporting goods business.
A notable success was the decision to sign a young Michael Jordan in 1984 to an endorsement deal that produced the Air Jordans, which have become one of the world's top-selling sneakers.
Perez, 57, spent 34 years at S.C. Johnson, the maker of Windex and Scrubbing Bubbles cleaners and Off! bug repellent. He has been president and CEO of the company since 1996.
The closely held consumer products maker named Chairman H. Fisk Johnson as CEO, making him the fifth generation of his family to lead the Wisconsin-based company.