Who Owns Nike: The Largest Shareholders Overview

Article Teaser: Who Owns Nike: The Largest Shareholders Overview

Nike, Inc. (NKE) is an iconic company that makes money by designing, promoting, and selling footwear and apparel. They sell both through third-party retailers and also directly. Let’s now look at who owns Nike and controls it.

The largest shareholder of Nike, Inc. is trust in the name of Travis Knight, son of Nike’s co-founder Philip Knight. Travis Knight Trust holds 17% of company shares, followed by asset managers Vanguard (7%) and BlackRock (6%). Company co-founder Philip Knight directly owns only a 2% share.

 Nike's Largest Shareholders (Dec 2021)
Shareholder Ownership Voting Power
Travis Knight Trust 17.4% 17.4%
Vanguard 6.7% 6.7%
BlackRock 5.7% 5.7%
Philip Knight 2.2% 2.2%
Other 68.0% 68.0%
Listed are shareholders holding >5% of any share class or notable in other ways
   Source: Multiple SEC filings

Nike largest shareholders by share ownership and vote control (donut chart) Nike largest shareholders by share ownership and vote control (donut chart)

The largest shareholder of Nike is the family of its co-founder Philip Knight. When we add all the shares that Philip and Travis Knight hold directly with the shares held by the trust where the family is the beneficiary, their stake adds up to 20% ownership of Nike.

Some of the shares are held directly by Philip Knight (2%), and a tiny fraction is also Travis Knight (0.01%).

But the majority is held by the trust they set up.(17%).

  • The majority of their family stake is held by the “Travis A. Knight 2009 Irrevocable Trust II,” where Travis Knight was a trustee.
  • When we look at shares held within the trust, some are held directly, but the majority is held through the company Swoosh, LLC, which is also included in the trust.
  • Travis Knight disclaims beneficial ownership of the stake within the trust, but he and his immediate family are beneficiaries of this trust. He is also Trustee and controls several Swoosh, LLC board seats.
  • Phil Knight originally created Swoosh LLC to hold most of his shares in Nike. In 2016, he transferred voting interest in Swoosh to the trust that bears the name of his son Travis.

Knights family does not simply own a significant stake in Nike, but through dual shares structure, they control 75% of Nike’s board seats. I will dig into this later.

Most other Nike insiders don’t hold shares that would be over 0.0% when rounded to one decimal. The exception is former CEO and current chairman Mark Parker with 0.09% ownership.

In this article, I will dive more into who Nike’s largest shareholders are, how many shares and votes they have, and how much their stake is worth. I will also explore some other topics related to its ownership structure.

If you are interested, you can also explore who owns other companies like Tesla, Apple, PayPal, or Starbucks.

🕹️ Who Owns Nike (NKE) and Who Has Control?

Nike largest shareholders share ownership vs vote control chart

Knight family is the major shareholder with 20% ownership. This alone would mean significant influence over Nike, Inc. However Knight family has an even tighter grip over Nike because they control 75% of Nike’s board of directors seats.

Let me explain how this is possible by explaining the different classes of shares Nike has outstanding.

Nike Inc. has three types of outstanding shares:

  • Class A common shares: These are not publicly tradable but are convertible into Class B publicly traded shares. Knight’s family holds 97% of Class A shares which gives them the power to elect nine(9) directors from Nike’s 12-member board.
  • Class B common shares: These are ordinary shares traded under the ticker NKE. They are mostly held by outside shareholders. Even though both Class B and A shares have one vote per share, the power of Class B shareholders is impaired by being able to decide only about three (3) directors on Nike’s board.
  • Preferred Shares: The company has a tiny number of preferred shares outstanding, and all of them are held by “Sojitz Corporation of America .”Preferred shares give the right to $.10 per share per annum cumulative dividend. Preferred shares have no voting power except in specific situations concerning mergers or significant sales of company assets.

Class A shares are the key to Nike’s control. They do not give multiple votes per share as is common in other companies, but they give Class A holders the right to nominate 75% of directors on Nike’s 12-person board

  • This Class A power is only valid if the proportion of Class B shares to total common shares is between 25% and 87,5%. Currently, this condition is valid, and the proportion of Class B shares on total shares is 81%.
  • Knight family controls 97% of Class A shares.
  • Class A shares’ power can be revoked only by the approval of 80% of all votes. The company also requires 80% of all votes to approve business combinations, with anyone owning 10% or more of Nike.

When you look at who is currently on Nike’s board, you will notice that Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, serves as a Lead Independent Director. However, “independent” does not mean that he is a nominee of a Class B shareholder. On the contrary, he is a nominee of Knight’s family (Class A shareholders)

The power that Knight’s family currently has over NIKE is transferable to others if they decide to sell their Class A shares in the future. This is different from super-voting shares in, e.g., Alphabet(Google) or Meta, where super-voting shares automatically convert to ordinary shares when sold to outside shareholders.

🗳️ Breakdown of Nike’s Outstanding Shares and Votes by Top Shareholders

Nike, Inc. had a total of 1,581 million outstanding shares as of December 2021. The following table shows how many shares each Nike’s large shareholder holds.

 Nike's Outstanding Shares by Shareholder
In millions of shares as of December 2021
Shareholder Class A Class B Total % Share
Travis Knight Trust 275 0 275 17.4%
Vanguard - 106 106 6.7%
BlackRock - 90 90 5.7%
Philip Knight 21 13 35 2.2%
Other 9 1,067 1,076 68.0%
Total (# millions) 305 1,276 1,581 100.0%
Listed are shareholders holding >5% of any share class or notable in other ways
   Source: Multiple SEC filings

There were 1,581 million votes distributed among shareholders of Nike, Inc.. The table below shows the total number of votes for each large shareholder.

 Nike's Vote Control by Shareholder
In millions of votes as of December 2021
Shareholder Class A Class B Total % Share
Travis Knight Trust 275 0 275 17.4%
Vanguard - 106 106 6.7%
BlackRock - 90 90 5.7%
Philip Knight 21 13 35 2.2%
Other 9 1,067 1,076 68.0%
Total (# millions) 305 1,276 1,581 100.0%
Listed are shareholders holding >5% of any share class or notable in other ways
   Source: Multiple SEC filings

💵 Breakdown of Nike’s Market Value by Shareholder

The following table summarizes how much is each shareholder’s stake in Nike, Inc. worth.

However, keep in mind that a stake in Nike could be just one part of their portfolio, and their total worth could be bigger, thanks to other investments. It could also be lower if they have debts.

 Nike's Market Value by Shareholder
Market value in billions $ as of December 2021
Shareholder Class A Class B Total % Share
Travis Knight Trust $46 $0 $46 17.4%
Vanguard - $18 $18 6.7%
BlackRock - $15 $15 5.7%
Philip Knight $4 $2 $6 2.2%
Other $2 $178 $179 68.0%
Total ($ billions) $51 $213 $264 100.0%
Listed are shareholders holding >5% of any share class or notable in other ways
   Source: Multiple SEC filings

Let’s now look at each Nike shareholder individually.

📒 Who Are the Largest Shareholders of Nike, Inc.

Let’s now go through the list of the largest shareholders of Nike, Inc. one by one and look at who they are, how many shares they own, what is their voting power, and how much is their stake in Nike worth.

#1 Travis Knight Trust

Travis Knight Trust holds 17% of Nike’s shares, making it its largest shareholder.

Nike largest shareholders share ownership vs vote control chart

Travis Knight Trust owns 275 million Nike shares, representing 275 million shareholder votes. The market value of Travis Knight Trust’s stake in Nike was $46 billion as of December 2021.

Travis A. Knight 2009 Irrevocable Trust II is a trust set up by Knight’s family and holds the majority of their stake in Nike Inc.

Travis Knight is the son of Nike’s founder Philip Knight. Since Travis Knight is a trustee and beneficiary of the trust, therefore it is assumed that he is the person with the largest influence over those stocks.

Travis A. Knight 2009 Irrevocable Trust II also includes the company Swoosh, LLC, which was set up by Nike’s co-founder Philip Knight to hold his stake in the company and was later transferred into the trust.

Travis Knight holds only a tiny amount of shares directly outside of the above mention family trust and is not currently involved in Nike’s business outside of his role as a board director.

He is the current president and CEO of Laika animation studio, currently owned by the Knight family. He is also a successful producer and director and worked for some time as an animator.

For example, he directed and produced a highly regarded animated movie Kubo and the Two Strings. He also directed the live-action movie Bumblebee.

#2 Vanguard

Vanguard holds 7% of Nike’s shares which makes it its second-largest shareholder.

Nike largest shareholders share ownership vs vote control chart

Vanguard owns 106 million Nike shares, representing 106 million shareholder votes. The market value of Vanguard’s stake in Nike was $18 billion as of December 2021.

Vanguard (The Vanguard Group) is one of the largest asset managers in the world. It manages other people’s money through its mutual funds and exchange-traded funds and also offers other related investing and financial planning services.

Vanguard differs from other large asset managers by having no actual “owner .” Officially Vanguard says that its investors own it since its funds own it, and Vanguard fund investors own those funds.

However, the actual decision power is in the hands of Vanguard’s insiders since the ownership is diluted over millions of investors worldwide.

Vanguard has significant influence over the largest public companies. Thanks to its size, Vanguard usually belongs to the largest shareholders in those companies and has considerable power at their shareholder meetings. This is especially true if ownership is diluted.

Vanguard representatives make the calls about which shareholder proposal to support or not, even though Vanguard is not the ultimate owner of those stocks and they belong to their clients.

It means that just a few people in charge of the largest asset managers have significant sway over many publicly traded companies. They are usually the median investors that can push or kill many proposals. As passive investing became more popular and the asset management market more concentrated, this became quite a concerning issue.

  • Several terms were coined to describe this issue. Some call it asset manager capitalism, and popular is also the power of twelve. Financial Times even put together who exactly those twelve people might be.

  • Vanguard and other large fund managers are trying to address those concerns by having public policies describing how they are exercising their voting power. But as you can imagine, this is still a situation full of conflicts of interest.
  • Evidence shows that big asset managers usually vote together with management.

#3 BlackRock

BlackRock holds 6% of Nike’s shares which makes it its third-largest shareholder.

Nike largest shareholders share ownership vs vote control chart

BlackRock owns 90 million Nike shares, representing 90 million shareholder votes. The market value of BlackRock’s stake in Nike was $15 billion as of December 2021.

BlackRock, Inc. is the world’s largest asset manager, with assets under management of $10 trillion. BlackRock is not only an asset manager, but it also provides other asset managers and corporations with its Aladdin portfolio management software.

BlackRock is a publicly traded company, and its largest shareholders are its competitors, including BlackRock itself. Not directly but through their passive and active funds. The largest shareholder is Vanguard.

A similar situation is also true in the opposite direction because BlackRock is a significant shareholder in many of its publicly traded competitors and other large institutions, making the whole thing even more eyebrow-raising.

This circular ownership between Vanguard, BlackRock, and other large asset managers, amplifies the issue often raised about the power of these large asset managers over public companies since they usually belong to the most significant shareholders.

  • BlackRock and other large asset managers do not invest their own money, but they have significant voting power that, in most cases, is not passed through to the underlying investors. Therefore, BlackRock itself and its representatives have significant sway over decisions in those companies.

  • In the case of Blackrock, this influence is personified in the form of its CEO Larry Fink, who is a powerful figure with close ties in the FED and US government.

  • Adding to these concerns is evidence that BlackRock and other asset managers usually vote in favor of management proposals.

  • Recently, large asset managers started to be more sympathetic to different climate and environmental-related proposals and even supported activists that went against the management’s wishes. BlackRock was particularly aggressive in this change. Another proof of the power these companies have.

#4 Philip Knight

Philip Knight holds 2% of Nike’s shares.

Nike largest shareholders share ownership vs vote control chart

Philip Knight owns 35 million Nike shares, representing 35 million shareholder votes. The market value of Philip Knight’s stake in Nike was $6 billion as of December 2021.

Philip Hampson Knight is co-founder and former Chairman of NIKE, Inc. He co-founded Nike in 1964 with Bill Bowerman and has been involved with the company ever since.

Under his influence, Nike became one of the world’s most powerful brands, and he became one of the wealthiest persons in the world

He retired as Nike’s chairman in 2016 and was appointed Chair Emeritus, a non-voting board member.

❔ Is Nike Still a Family-Owned Business?

The largest shareholder of NIKE are members of the Knight family. That does not make Nike “family-owned” because the family owns only 20% of Nike. We can, however, call NIKE, Inc a family-controlled business because the Knights family controls 75% of its board seats.

Knights family control over NIKE is possible thanks to ownership of 97% of Nike’s Class A shares. Holders of Class A shares have a right to elect 75% of the board, which currently means nine(9) directors from 13 total.

❔ Who and When Founded Nike?

Nike was founded in 1964 by Philip Knight and Bill Bowerman. Initially, the company was named Blue Ribbon Sports but was later renamed Nike. Over many decades Nike has become the world’s most iconic brand and made Philip Knight and his family rich.

During Nike’s initial public offering in 1980, only B-class shares with limited power over board election were offered. Power over the board was held by original shareholders.

Nike has made many acquisitions throughout the years. For example, in 2003, Nike acquired Converse, another iconic shoe brand.

Bowerman died in 1999, but he started reducing his role in the company and also his stake long before that.

The company also had periods where they were under a lot of heat when they were criticized for running sweatshops in Asia and for using child labor.

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