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John Donahoe came to Nike as an industry outsider. Two years later, employees weigh in on decisions that have defined the CEO’s tenure.

Nike CEO John Donahoe.

Nike; Rachel Mendelson/Insider

  • John Donahoe this month celebrated his second anniversary as Nike CEO.
  • Insiders credit him with pushing through a reorganization and positioning Nike for a digital future.
  • But current and former employees both worry about the recent loss of a slew of veteran talent.

In his first two years as Nike CEO, John Donahoe has led a sweeping reorganization designed to make the company digital-first. The plan’s been a Wall Street winner, with Nike’s stock outpacing the market. 

But Donahoe, whose background is in management consulting and technology, hasn’t shaken his image as an outsider to both sneaker and Nike culture. Donahoe listed Nike golf pants as one of his favorite products on a recent proxy statement, not one of the hundreds of iconic sneakers in the company’s archives, as an example. 

Over the past several weeks, Insider spoke with 15 current and former Nike employees about the ups and downs of Donahoe’s tenure. 

While some said Donahoe is positioning the company for growth and freeing up career paths for new executives, others expressed frustrations, including with the company’s “cold” handling of layoffs in 2020. Others were unimpressed with how long it took Nike to delay its back-to-office plan and worry about an exodus of veteran employees. 

As Donahoe starts his third year at the helm of Nike, he will have to address those criticisms while navigating headwinds outside of Nike’s global headquarters — including a reported 24% sales drop in China in its second fiscal second quarter. Inflation fears are also continuing to grow, a concern for all companies. 


Nike CEO’s first 2 years have sent its stock soaring, but insiders worry about a talent exodus

At least 20 Nike executives have left the company in the past 3 months and joined brands like Microsoft, The North Face, and Taco Bell. Here’s a running list of recent departures.

Nike insiders describe a ‘fight to the death’ as layoffs loomed for an agonizing 6 months

Do you work at Nike or have insight to share? Contact reporter Matthew Kish via the encrypted messaging app Signal (+1-971-319-3830) or email ([email protected]). Check out Insider’s source guide for other tips on sharing information securely.

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