tv The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations PBS September 28, 2019 5:00am-5:30am PDT
announcer: support for the pbs presentatation of this program was provided by general motors. i see a future. i see a good future. i see a future filled with roads and nrage. both: we see a future... with zero crashes. woman: i see a future where fossil fuels.. man: are a thing of the past. all: we see a future with zero emissions. i see a future where traffic... keeps perfect time. where intelligence is always by design. we see a future with zero congestion. zero congestion. man: we are... second man: we are... both: we are... all: general motors. david: what would you say the skill set was that you brought? was it great intellect, great drive, great leadership? phil: all of that. david: all of that? david: let's talk about golf. phil: tiger woods you could see coming from way back. david: in basketball, you have somebody named micel jordan. phil: everybody wanted him. david: if i wore those shoes, i wouldn't be jumping higher, right?
phil: i think you might. david: really? when you give a $400 million gift or $500 million gift, do you actually write a check out? it hard to write that check or? phil: uh, yes. david: what would you say is the most favorable memory you have? phil: kind of look at nike as my work of art, if you will. woman: would you fix your tie,lease? david: well, people wouldn't recognize me if my tie was fixed, but ok. just leave it this way. all right. i don't consider myself a journalist, and nobody else would consider myself a journalist. i bega take on the life of being an interviewer, even though i have a day job of running a private equity firm. how do you define leadership? what is it that makes somebody tick? david: i have worn your shoes for many years, and now i-- phil: you look great. david: finally get a chance to talk about them. but we'll will talk about my shoes a little bit later.
when you first started the company in, i guess, 1962, around then, you knew nothing about shoe design, you didn't know a lot about management, and you didn't have any money. so today, the company is now worth roughly a marketapitalization of about $100 billion, revenues of about $30 billion, 62,000 employees. did you ever imagine when you first stard this company, so in the early sixties, that it could ever be what it became? phil: sometimes when i get that question i say, "we're exactly on plan." [laughter] but with you i can't be a smartass. david: you mean, that wasn't an original question? i thought i was the first person to ever ask that. ok. phil: no, but it's--yeah, it's been a ride that really nobody could foresee. when we started out, the total branded athletic shoe sales in the united states were about $2 billion. so last year we did 9. and so based on the original year, we're 450% market share. so it's--you know, we took advantage of the running boom,
which became a jogging boom, which became a fitness boom. and we've benefited from all of that. david: would you say the company benefited more from being a good marketing company or a good technology company? in other words, having a better product or having better marketing, or a combination of both? phil: well, what i've always said is we're a marketing company, important marketing tool. david: and the skill set that you brought to it, what would you say the skill set was that you brought? was it great intellect, great drive,reat leadership? what would you say? phil: all of that. david: all of that? phil: daviah. david: in equal-- in equal amounts? phil: if there is one thing, it's been, i've been pretty good at evaluating people. and that was one of the things that i wanted to get through, and i hope did come through in the book, was holuable those early partners were, my fellow employees, my teammates. they were terrific. david: speaking of that book, here it is. phil: yeah. david: now, it's "shoe dog." now, i must confess, before i read the book, i didn't know what a shoe dog was.
for those who are watching, what is a shoe dog? phil: well, in 25 words or less, a shoe dog is somebody that really loves shoes, and that was me. i was a runner. there is no such thing as a ball in the mile. all you really care about are the shoes. and so that became important to me and has been with me ever since. david: now, you are from oregon, and i think i read that the first fossil we have of a shoe that ever existed is 9,000 years old, and it was--came from oregon. do you take that as a special sign that it was designed for you to start this company in oregon? phil: well, i haven't really thought of it that way, but i will take it. david: ok. [laughter] you grew up-- your father was a newspaper editor, and when you wanted a summer job once, he told you he wouldn't hire you. why did he hire you? phil: well, he knew me pretty well. no. there were two major newspapers in portland at the time-- "the journal," which he was publisher of that. he wouldn't hire me, so i went across the street
to "the oregonian" and applied for a job and got it. wthere for 3 summers. david: ok. so in high school, you were an athlete and you ran, but ou awere yuperstar athlete or were you an average athlete, or what would you say? phil: i was a little better than average, but i was certainly not a superstar. david: but you got a scholarship to go to the university of oregon? phil: no, i did not. i was a walk on. david: or a run on, i guess. phil: a run on, ok. david: so your best time, as i remember it, was 4 minutes and 10 seconds for a mile. phil: 4:13, but close enough. david: 4:13. ok, 4:13. i gave you 3 seconds. phil: i should have taken it. david: all right, so suppose i told you today that you had these choices. you could either have built nike or run a 3:56 mile. which would you have preferred? phil: 3:56 mile or build nike? david: yes. phil: i'll take nike. david: ok. phil: but i did pause. [laughter] david: all rht. ok. so, you lettered in 3 years, and then afterwards, you went into the army.
and after a year in the army, then you served in the reserves for a number of years, you went to business school at stanford. so how did you happen to pick stanford as a place to go to business school? phil: well, it was and is a good school. and i got admitted. david: ok. all right. so you got admitted, and then in a class you had there, there was a class on entrepreneurshipcl phil: yeah, the professor was really a dynamic professor and an inspirational professor, and he had you write a paper, which was your term paper which was mostly what your grade would be, and you were supposed to attach yourself to a small business in the bay area or make up a small business. and he said, "make sure you write about something you kn." so most of my classmates wrote about some electronics project, which was beyond me. but i remembered my old track ach playing with shoes, and i was one of the guinea pigs of the shoes he played with, so i was sort of quite aware of the process, and it just didn't make sense to me at the time that running shoes should be made in germany, which were dominating the world's markets.
and so i said they should be made in japan, and maybe japan can do to german shoes what japan did to german cameras. and so that was the premise. i worked pretty hard on the paper, and the professor liked it, so that was the beginning. david: did you get an "a" on it? phil: i did, yes. david: ok. all right, so then you graduated. and despite this great paper, no shoe company hired you, and you didn't then have the big silicon valley venture capital world, so you didn't get a job there. you went back to your home and you became an accountant, is that right? phil: mm-hmm. david: so was that exciting for you to be an accountant? phil: no, i didn't ever plan to be an accoun'tnt for 50 years. but it was... i talked to a lot of people about what i should do, and i was kind of a finance major at stanford, and they said there really is no such thing. you should get your cpa certificate. it will be a great education and put a floor under your earnings. so that's what i did. david: but you also-- before you really did that, you went by yourself on a trip around the world?
phil: i started out with another guy, and he got waylaid by a girl in hawaii, so i went on alone. [laughter] i didn't have that problem. david: when you were in japan, did you not stop in to see a shoe manufacturer? phil: yeah, that was part of the idea inspired by the paper that i wrote, that i would call on japanese shoe manufactures to see about importing their shoes into the united states. i only called on one, and they were enthusiastic, so it began. david: you came back and they started shipping you shoes to a company that you had named blue ribbon. where did the name blue ribbon come from? phil: first place. when they asked me, what's the name of your company, i had to come up with something. david: so you called it blue ribbon. all ght, so they started shipping you shoes. and so your job was to then sell these shoes. so as i understand, you had a green valeant, and you would put them in the trunk and go around the track meets and sell the shoes. is that what you did? phil: that's what i did. david: a at that time, you had no vision of building a great global company. you were just trying to...
phil: well, i thought it was the start and we could be bigger. david: ok. phil: yeah, obviously, as i said earlier, nobody expected it to be as big as it is. david: but at some point, they began to be competitive with you. so you began to build your own company called nike, and you needed a symbol of the company, and i guess somebody came up with this swoosh. you paid $35 for that? phil: yeah, it was a graphics arts student at portland state who needed money. [laughter] phil: we said, "we will pay you two dollars an hour to get some designs." she spent 17.5 hoursn that. [laughter] david: so $35, that's pretty good. ok. phil: it did have a happy ending. david: you gave her some stock. phil: when we went public, we gave her 500 shares of stock, anshe has not sold a single share, and it is over $1 million right now. david: wow. that's pretty good. so you began your own company eventually you parted ways with the japanese company. did you actually design the shoes yourself or were you the person who figured out
what the shoes were going to look like? phil: we were in a hurry. we had-- it reminds me of-- you know, they asked john kennedy how he became a hero, and he said, "it's easy. they sank my boat." that, you know, an ultimatum that said either sell us 51% of your company at book value or we're gonna set up other distributors no matter what this piece of paper says. so that kind of gave us an idea that we maybe better change manufacturers. so we were in a hurry. and the first shoes, yes, that i did in an office in tokyo, japan over the course of a weekend. david: well, i--can you reveal the secret? if you actually have better shoes, can you run faster, or it really doesn't make that much direerence? phil: i think shoes are key. we still believe in the mile run lighter is better. it makes a difference. i mean, obviously, if you tried to run a mile in a pair of dress shoes, as an exame, you're not gonna run as fast as you are in a pair of 4-ounce cleats. in the old days when i warunning at the university of oregon, we had a lot of canvas upper training shoes.
you go out for a 6-milrun, and you come back and your feet were bloody, so it matters. david: so when you started your company, nike, the dominant companies were german--adidas and puma. were they happy with you coming along? and did they kind of try to get you out of business? phil: oh, no. they kind of di woo mouus until it was too lat we kind of snuck up on them. david: there was a university of oregon runner, steve prefontaine, was a legendary track star, and you became close to him. how did you get him to wear your shoes? phil: well, we worked at it and worked at it and worked at it. obviously, that he had worn adidas his whole life, but he was right there in eugene, and we had a small office in eugene, and the guy that ran the office became his brother practically, and ultimately convinced him to switih to nike. and he was really our first real prominent
track and field athlete. david: you went after others. how hard is it-- you have to pay them to use your shoes or they just like it so much they just use the shoes? phil: they all just like it so much, they wear them. david: really? phil: no. [laughter] david: ok. phil: no, it's--i mean, obviously, if they're good enough, themand endornt fee from us or whoever-- whoever they're gonna wear. and you know, other than pre, at the '96 olympics in atlanta, wore the gold shoes, which lifted us significantly. davi and you made those shoes? phil: mmade . david: so as you began to go beyond track, how did you decide what the next sport was? because track was an important thing for you when you started, but it wasn't your view of the only sport that you could have shoes made for. so you went to tennis. is that right? phil: um, that--we had a situation with the original manufacturer, all they made was running shoes. so when we said we're gonna break with them, we weren't limited to running shoes. so actually, the first nike soes designed
that weekend in tokyo included tennis, basketball, and wrestling. two out of three worked. david: now in--you don't need shoes in wrestling, i guess. phil: well, you do, but there's not that big a market. david: early on, you had-- was vid:ohn mcenroe was one of your player he from time to time would lose his temper. and did that reflect poorly on your shoe or you didn't care about his image? his image was he was a great tennis player, p but sometimes he would lose control, some people might say, and that didn't bother you, or did it actually help sales? phil: the latter. david: oh, it did? ok. phil: no, he had a bad temper. that arnold palmer had a bad temper, too, but he would keep it in control. but you could see him standing there ready to lose it. john went over. he was arnold palmer that didn't keep it in control. but he was probably the most exciting player of his era. and in private was a perfect ntman.
it was just that he was so intense that it would get away from him sometimes. but he was unique in that he lot heis temper a lot, but when he played bjorn borg, and i think he played him 25 times, he never lost his temper once. david: wow. i didn't really knew john mcenroe as a tennis player, but when i practiced law early on, the office next to mine was held by a man named john mcenroe sr., and he always told me his son was a high school tennis player and was really good. and of course, you always roll your eyes when you hear this. but then i finally realized he was not exaggerating. [laughter] so, let's talk about golf. a man named tiger woods came along, and you signed him up relatively early in his professional career, i guess at the beginning of it. so was that hard to convince him to do this? that he had won 3 u.s. juniors and then went on to win 3 u.s. amateurs in a 6-year span from the time he was 15 to 20. and that so we-- he would play occasionally in the portland area,
and we would always invite him and his father out to lunch, so we were working on that for probably 3 years before we actually signed him. david: and when you signed him up, he then wears your shoes exclusivy, but you also then began to make golf equipment as well, so you made lf balls and golf equipment, but now you are out of that business. is that because you just want to f tus on shoes and not other types of equipment? phil: it's a fairly simple equation. we lost money for 20 years on equipment and balls and we realized next year was not going to be any different. david: ok, so you got out of that. but let me ask you. for a while, you were doing casl wear as well. in other words, there was the aerobics effort and there was casual wear. you decided to try to make athletic shoes into a casual kind of shoes. did that work as well? daviell?eah. sportswear and shoes and clothes is still a fairly significant part of our business. david: and so, in other words, it's not just for athletes. you try to now design shoes, and you have been for some time, for people who are just wearing them casually.
and so you like it when people are wearing suits and wearing your shoes as well? phil: you look great. david: ok. and do you ever wear anything other than nike shoes? phil: no. david: ok. so when you wear a tuxedo or something and you wear nike shoes as well? phil: black nike shoes. david: ok. so let me ask about basketball. in basketball, you have somebody named michael jordan, a basketball player, you've heard of, right? david: and so, was it hard to sign him up? and why was his shoe so successful, became the most successful shoe ever in the athletic world. phil: yeah, it was hard to sign him up because everybody wanted him. and we won that bid. we won that war. david: was it on your personality? phil: clearly. [laughter] david: not money, just personality? phil: no, we offered pretty good. but we had a lot of good players. we didn't have really great players, and we thought he had the chance to be that. he was obvious way better than we ever could have imagined,
but, yeah, when he started wearing the shoes, we made them really dramatic. they were red and black and white, the 3 main colors. and of course, he was a very exciting player. he jumped and he was quick, and he shot, he did everything well, and he was handsome and he spoke well. and then the shoe was distinctive looking. and david stern did us a huge favor, he banned it in the nba. and so we ran a big says "banned in the nba," and every kid wanted the shoe then. [laughter] david: but now michael jordan hasn't played in the nba for more than a decade, and yet the shoe is still maybe your best-selling basketball shoe. why is that? phil: when michael jordan retired from the game of basketball, we were selling about $700 million worth of jordan product. d, and we are selling over $3 billion worth of jordan product. and there are some kids-- some kids really know who he is and he's an all-time great, but some kids don't even know who he was. it's just-- it became a brand. it went from an endorsement into a brand.
i mean, if i wore those shoes, i wouldn't be jumping higher, right? phil: i think you might. david: really? i'm going to go get some. because of the success of the company, you are one of the wealthiest men in the united states and one of theealthiest men in the world. you're also one of the biggest philanthropists in the united states and the world. so let's talk about your philanthropy for a moment. when did you that realize you just can't take it with you and you're better to give it away? at what point in your life do you say, i've got to do something wit this other than just hold on to it? phil: well, it was fairly late in the process because i kept thinking it was all going to disappear. i often said, "if this is a dream, don't wake me." that, um--but yes, as the years went on, it seemed more real. so, yeah, as i got older, i said, you know, you can'take it with you. but i've wanted to focus on 3 or 4 main charities rather than y and spread it across the board. david: to the university of oregon, your alma mater, you've given a couple of hundred million dollars related to athletics, but you've also given $500 million recently for a science center.
so why did you decide to be so generous to your alma mater? phil: well, and basically, i kind of have to laugh because two of the great entrepreneurs, bill gates and steve jobs, basically dropped out of college when they were freshmen, and my story is the exact opposite. the company nike is really the result two universities, the university of oregon, which started the idea of running shoes, and then stanford, which had the entrepreneurship education. so i've tried to give back to those two schools. those have been two of my main contributions. and then the other that means a lot to me is oshu, which has a very outstanding leader in their cancer research area. david: the oregon science health university. phil: oregon health sciences, yeah. david: you gave them $500 million for cancer research. you've also given recently $400 million for a new scholarship/fellowship program at stanfrshiuniversity. it's called the knight-hennessy fellows. can you describe why you decided to do
the knight hennessy program? phil: well, first of all, i'm a little bit biased, but i think john hennessy, who was president of stanfd university for 16 years, and i'm sure that we could have an argument about this, but i think he's the best college president in the united states. and when he was getting ready to step down, he came up and had this plan that he'd been working on for years, which basically-- it took a look at the rhodes holarship and looked at-- which was set up, i think, in 1835 or so, and nobody can quality from latin america. there's certain number that come from-- the disproportionate come from the united states because henry rhodes thought that would lead maybe to the united states coming back into the empire. david: that didn't work, but. phil: no. so he took that program and said, "how could we make it better and build it around stanford?" and when he proposed the idea, i leapt at it instantly. i think it's gonna be a fabulous program. david: it's a very well-known program now, but it did take $400 million of your money. so was it hard to just say, "i'll give you $400 million"?
or do you go home and talk to your wife penny and say, "i'm gonna give away $400 million today"? phil: well, it took a little bit longer than that. it took the better part of a year, but that was one of the faster ones just because of my high regard for john hennessy and the program that he had-- i think it's gonna be an outstanding program. david: so when you give a $400 million gift or a $500 million gift, do you actually write a check out or do you just kind of wire the money? and is it hard to write that check? phil: yes. no, it's a little bit of-- some of it has been given in stock and some of it--it's paid out over a few years. dad: you had two sons, one ed tragically in a scuba diving accident. and in hisonor, you've done some things. how have you tried to memorialize him in that way? phil: well, he was a big sports fan, so we gave some money to the university of oregon for their new basketball arena, which was named after him. david: today, what is left for you to accomplish and what do you want to accomplish that haven't you accomplished? phil: well, i look back on the last couple of years,
and i'm pretty happy with what's happened in those years, particully around the philanthropy that i've been able to do, and there will be more going ahead, but i take my time in thinking about those thin, and i'm feeling good about things right now. david: so do consult with your wife on that? phil: absolutely. she has final approval. [laughter] david: now, where did you meet your wife? phil: well, i taught two years at portland state, and she was one of my students. david: ok. and she was a good student? phil: yeah. she was actually quite a good student. she was a better student than i was. david: it's unrealistic to make these kinds of products in the united states, you would say, these shoes and those kinds of things? phil: it is as we speak, but the manufacturing technology is changing very, very rapidly, so, you know, out there somewhere, 5 or 10 years, therwill be some shoe manufacturing done in the united states, which is supposedly good news. the bad news is there won't be a lot of jobs. it will be very automated. david: you were a runner for quite some time. i think up until the age of 70, you ran. you never actually hurt your knee so much that--
you don't have artificial knees or artificial hips. phil: do not. david: so how did you avoid all those problems by running so much and not having damaged your body? you were just a graceful runner, or good shoes? phil: well, i didn't put too much strain on the knees 'cause i don't have very much muscle mass, so i was lucky that way. but, yeah, i still get out and walk. when i was, i think 70, when i was out for one of my runs, i got passed by a woman with a baby carriage and i realized that maybe i should really quit trying to run and just walk. david: the athletes you have met over the years, you have been involved with some of the most famous athletes. we've mentioned some-- tiger woods, john mcenroe, steve prefontaine, michael jordan, among others, are any of them that stand out to you as the people that you would say are role models for youth, or do think all of them are? and which one's have you developed the closest personal relationship with? phil: well, all the ones you mentioned i like a lot and know pretty well. they're all a little bit different. is john mcenroe a role model? i would say, yeah, kind of, but a lot of people would disagree with peothat.
but yeah, i think-- but which one stands out more than the other-- i really do look at the them as my children kind of, and who is your favorite child? you can't say that. david: so like when you got to know tiger woods, did he give you golf tips, or you don't play golf? phil: i do, badly. he tried to give me a tip, but it didn't really work. david: so the high point of your career you would say was when nike went public or when nike came to the success it currently has? what would you say is the high point, the most favorable memory you have? phil: i kind of look at nike as my work of art, if you will, and just the whole painting is what matters. david: let's talk finally about leadership. so leadership is not clear to people, whether you are born with it or you inherit it or you kind of become a leader by education. what do you think makes a great leader? phil: well, they come in all shapes and sizes, don't they? i mean, obviously hollywood will portray our leaders
as tall and handsome and strong-jawed, but a lot of times the real good leaders are just the opposite. i think it's just... people that-- well, first of all, they have got to want it, but they come inll shapes and sizes. i don't know there is any one lesson. david: and stoday, anything left you would like to achieve in your personal life or professional life, or you've pretty much achieved it? phil: no, i--if i knew exactly what it was, i probably wouldn't tell you, but it's--i don't really know. but it's something i think about a lot, and i'm comfortable that i'll be having-- have some goals and try to meet them david: now, you are famous for wearing sunglasses, and i appreciate you not wearing them this interview. but is that because you are shy by nature? you just don't want people to see you? phil: basically, i wear contact lenses, and it makes the sun bright. the future is so bright i wear them all the timegh david: ok. thank you very much for interesting conversation. i'm gonna try to wear these shoes more regularly,
so maybe i can be in better shape than i am. phil: thank you very much. thank you. david: appreciate it. announcer: support for the pbs presentation of this program was provided by general motors. i see a future. i see a good future. i see a future filled with roads and no rage. both: we see a future... with zero crashes. woman: i see a future where fossil fuels... man: are a thing of the past. all: we see a future with zero emissions. i see a future where traffic... keeps perfect ti where intelligence is always by design. we see a future with zero congestion. zero congestion. man: we are... second man: we are... both: we are... all: general motors. ♪ be more pbs
he's a billionaire businessman and politician who will be a major force in 2020. this week on "firing line." >> i've devoted my life and net worth to trying to make the world a better place. he's nopl longer the mayor of new york city, but michael bloomberg is still banking on his polical capital. >> he gave 1.8 billionli- >> pouring millions into making his case for businesses to step in during this era of polarization. >> no one should be allowed to buy a gun without passing a background check, period. >> many thought michael bloomberg would run against another new york city billionaire the's known for decades. >> the bottom line is, trump is a risky, reckless aec radical choice and we can't afford