Not even Tiger Woods could make golf profitable for Nike. That is the revelation coming out of a Bloomberg interview with Nike co-founder Phil Knight.
Knight sat down with host David Rubenstein to discuss the glory days of Nike’s foray into golf, which consisted of landing the young phenom Woods and signing him to the then largest endorsement deal in history.
"You could see him coming from way back," said Knight. "We'd always invite him and his father out for lunch."
But despite the acquisition of Woods in 1996 and all of his PGA Tour successes, 14 career major titles and a growing legion of fans, Knight explained the relationship mattered little where sales figures were concerned.
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Asked why Nike decided to ditch its golf equipment and golf ball business last year to instead focus solely on apparel and footwear, Knight summarised things as simply as he could.
"It’s a fairly simple equation, that we lost money for 20 years on equipment and balls," said Knight, who was CEO until 2004 and remained chairman until last year. "We realised next year wasn’t going to be any different."
Nike went public in 1980 and emerged as the world’s largest athletic brand. Now it’s working to revive growth under CEO Mark Parker, who will deliver Nike’s latest quarterly earnings on Thursday.
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Woods, who will make his long-awaited return to competitive golf on November 30, still wears Nike apparel but signed an equipment deal with TaylorMade and with Bridgestone to play their golf ball earlier this season.