Was Nike Executive Turnover About More Than Workplace Culture?
The recent dismissal of 11 Nike execs related to workplace culture "represented a dramatic boardroom power play engineered" by CEO MARK PARKER and co-Founder & Chair Emeritus PHIL KNIGHT, according to sources cited in a front-page piece by Jeff Manning of the Portland OREGONIAN. When management was "confronted over its workplace culture, the company moved quickly" against Nike Brand President TREVOR EDWARDS, who had been the "odds-on favorite to succeed Parker." Management then "went after his team." More than half of the 11 manager-level dismissals were "high-level Edwards allies." Sources said that this was a "surgical removal of a discredited senior executive and his team more than it was a broad house cleaning of misbehaving managers." Edwards' departure "marks a tectonic shift in Nike's power structure." In the past decade, no single exec had "more impact or created more controversy." Nike’s BOD in recent years "wanted top brass to explain how it allowed the company' market position to erode," and, by some accounts, they "weren’t satisfied with Edwards’ responses." Sources said that Edwards was "already on thin ice with Knight and Parker" due to recent business setbacks and "differences over marketing." Sources added that Knight and Parker may have also "realized how polarizing Edwards had become." Meanwhile, former Nike VP/Digital Brand Marketing Innovation DANNY TAWIAH, one of the first of the departed execs to go public, said that the "accusations against him are false." Tawiah: "My role was to inspire and develop under-performing teams, and through that pursuit there were times I had to make difficult decisions. Unfortunately, those decisions at times were not agreeable to everyone." He added, "I have never bullied anyone." Manning noted the executive purge has been "widely portrayed as Nike’s #MeToo moment" (Portland OREGONIAN, 7/8).