Phil Knight did not tell Nike shareholders Monday
whether he paid Tiger Woods $100 million for his latest endorsement contract.
Knight did say Woods is "worth it."
The chairman and co-founder of the largest athletic shoe maker in the world,
responding to written questions from the audience at the annual shareholder
meeting, was asked whether the money could have been better spent.
"No, it couldn't," Knight told the large crowd gathered at Memorial
Coliseum, the former home of the Portland Trail Blazers.
It has been widely reported that Woods' latest contract with Nike is worth
Flanked by twin jumbo screens hanging from the high ceiling, Knight mixed
business with humor, sports and the Olympics, greeting the audience with a
hearty, "G'day, mates."
The bearded, red-haired billionaire was dressed in a dark suit but wore
white Nike athletic shoes that stood out from the more traditional business
footwear sported by his board of directors, including former Georgetown coach
Knight admitted it was a year with little growth, most of it international,
and he admitted Nike's stock prices had swung "all over the place."
The giant screens flashed sports highlights that featured Woods and other
celebrity athletes on the Nike endorsement list, including tennis stars Andre
Agassi and Pete Sampras; slugger Ken Griffey Jr.; Tour de France winner Lance
Armstrong; and Olympic sprinter Marion Jones.
Still, the Beaverton-based company that roughly tripled its sales from about
$3 billion in 1995 to more than $9 billion in 1998 has stalled at that level
for the past two years.
Knight also said the company was "very excited" about a $30 million
endorsement deal with Toronto Raptors forward Vince Carter, an NBA rookie of
the year some consider the potential successor to Michael Jordan as
basketball's top star.
Tiger Woods - Worth $20m a year ?Allsport
Knight, however, was careful about distinguishing Carter from Jordan, now a
Nike executive with his own line of shoes and clothing.
"This is not the next Michael Jordan," Knight told shareholders in
response to a question from the audience about Carter signing with Nike last
"There's only one Michael Jordan. But I do think Vince Carter has a chance
to be the most exciting player currently in the NBA," Knight said.
The meeting also featured live and taped tributes to Bill Bowerman, the
of Oregon track coach who became Knight's mentor and co-founder of a
company built around his early designs, including the legendary running shoe
made with the help of his wife's waffle iron.