Nike CEO Perez resigns over differences with Knight

Monday, January 23rd 2006, 10:54 am
By: News On 6

BEAVERTON, Ore. (AP) _ Nike Inc., the world's largest athletic-shoe company, on Monday said CEO William D. Perez resigned over differences with company founder and chairman Philip Knight and was replaced by Mark Parker, co-president of the Nike brand.

Perez, who joined the Beaverton-based company in December 2004 after a long career with consumer-products maker S.C. Johnson, resigned by mutual agreement with the Nike board, Nike said in a statement.

Perez said in the statement that he and Knight ``weren't entirely aligned on some aspects of how to best lead the company's long-term growth. It became obvious to me that the long-term interests of the company would be best served by my resignation.''

Nike will pay Perez $4.5 million in salary and bonus, and buy his Portland house and reimburse him for remodeling expenses, to the tune of about $3.6 million, the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Knight, who founded Nike in 1968 along with Bill Bowerman, stepped down as CEO in December 2004 _ at age 66 _ but remained chairman. At the time, Knight suggested he would still play a major role as ``an active chairman.''

Perez had been president and chief executive of S.C. Johnson since 1996 before replacing Knight as Nike CEO.

Parker, 50, joined Nike in 1979 and is considered the visionary behind the Nike Air franchise and many other innovations, Nike said, and one of the key executives leading the company's long-term strategic planning

``Mark has a proven track record in driving creativity, innovation and growth,'' Knight said in the statement. ``He's an experienced, talented executive and has played an instrumental role in building our business and making the Nike brand as strong as it is today.''

Charlie Denson was named president of the Nike brand.

Analyst John Shanley of Susquehanna Financial Group said Perez was a rare outsider in the Nike house and had a different idea about how to move shoes. Rather than relying on Nike's high-profile advertising campaigns, Perez worked the phones and met with retailers, Shanley said.

Knight ``has always felt that retailers get in his way,'' Shanley said. ``Perez took a very opposite way in reaching out. ... That sounds a little bizarre, but some of the retailers that had been in Nike's top 10 accounts had not spoken with a Nike CEO.''

Shanley said, though, that it was too early to say whether Perez's attempts to change the marketing culture were part of the reason for his departure.