Nike shocked the golf world last summer when they announced they would be leaving the equipment business. However, according to co-founder Phil Knight, the writing was on the wall for a while. Apparently, 20 years of losing money will do that, even to a multi-billion dollar company.
In a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg TV, Knight revealed that not even Tiger Woods was able to get Nike into the black:
Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike Inc., was so enamored with a young Tiger Woods that the company began recruiting him three years before signing him to an endorsement deal at 20.
“You could see him coming from way back,” Knight said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. The young golfer would occasionally play in the the Portland area, near Nike’s headquarters, “and we’d always invite him and his father out to lunch.”
It was the start of a long — and ultimately unprofitable — relationship.
— GOLF.com (@golf_com) June 29, 2017
Woods went on to become the greatest golfer of his generation, and Nike sought to benefit by selling clubs and equipment. But even the celebrity of Woods and his legion of fans weren’t enough to make it break even, said Knight, who left the company’s board last year. Nike exited the category a year ago amid Woods’s fading star power and the sport’s declining popularity.
“It’s a fairly simple equation, that we lost money for 20 years on equipment and balls,” Knight told interviewer David Rubenstein, host of “The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations.” “We realized next year wasn’t going to be any different.”
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