A Fast Company Exclusive: Phil Knight Goes Hollywood

Nike’s founder hoped his sons would come work for the multi-billion-dollar empire that he started in the 1960s by selling sneakers out of the trunk of his car. Maybe they’d even run the company one day. But that was not to be. “They made that clear from the beginning,” Phil Knight told me recently. They had to find their own passion.

Time passed, and life took a painful turn. And now, following the death of his older son, Phil and his remaining son Travis are working together for the first time. But not in athletic shoes. Despite the fact that neither has ever made a feature film, they’re creating what they hope is the next great animation studio — Steve Jobs, are you paying attention? — called Laika Entertainment. Between production costs and a sprawling Nike-like campus that’s in the works, Phil has committed about $180 million so far.

Fathers and sons. Legacy and tragedy. Grand ambition and a high-stakes gamble. The story of how Phil and Travis Knight wound up in the movie business is a surprising and intimate portrait that explores a number of universal questions. How much should a parent push or help a child? How does a child balance independence and the opportunities created by his parents?

The story — The Knights’ Tale — appears in the July/August issue of Fast Company. It hits newsstands tomorrow.