SWOOSH: The Unauthorized Story of Nike and the Men Who Played There by J.B. & Laurie Becklund Strasser

SWOOSH: The Unauthorized Story of Nike and the Men Who Played There

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An unusually entertaining and informative corporate history that traces the rise, fall, and recovery of NIKE Inc., the world-class supplier of athletic shoes and casual clothing. Though the authors had no cooperation from either the company or its enigmatic founder, Philip H. Knight, they offer an authoritative, unsparing account of how a fledgling firm whose first sales reps sold sneakers from car trunks at track meets became a pacesetting multinational. Strasser, NIKE's first advertising manager, married a lawyer who, until his 1987 resignation, was one of the boss's closest cronies; Becklund, Strasser's sister, is a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times. Drawing on inside information and interviews as well as archival material, they recount how Knight, a long-distance runner at Oregon Univ., parlayed his Stanford MBA thesis into a lucrative global business venture that caught the crest of the stateside booms in jogging and fitness, generating annual revenues exceeding $3 billion. Along the way, Knight recruited a ragtag crew of blithe spirits who prized the Animal House camaraderie of the company's formative years. Having survived an unfortunate penchant for cutting corners, NIKE hit its stride during the 1970's, besting Adidas, Converse, Puma, et al. and permitting the company to go public in 1980. It found it difficult, however, to meet the expectations of investors and Wall Street analysts. In fact, management stumbled badly, missing the markets for aerobic and fashion footwear pioneered by archrival Reebok. Thanks in large measure to the prescient signing of such all-pro spokesmen as Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson, though, plus some innovative new products, NIKE bootstrapped its way back onto the fast track. But turnaround carried a price, since many of the freewheelers who had helped build the company jumped ship. The authors wonder whether an institutionalized NIKE can maintain its momentum, let alone meet the challenges of a fast-stepping marketplace. An engrossing narrative that evenhandedly assesses the making and maturation of a consequential enterprise.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1992
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich