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Fil-Am heads Nike’s shoe group - SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson

() - December 12, 2000 - 12:00am
Beaverton, Oregon – Morgan Keldsen has worked nearly eight years for Nike and says his is the best job in the world. Because he has a passion for sports, Keldsen sees himself at Nike "for life."

Keldsen, 31, is a Fil-Am. His father Robert is a U.S. Air Force mechanic who met his mother Monina Tiongson of San Fernando, Pampanga, when he was stationed at Clark Air Base in Angeles City. He is an only child.

Fresh out of school, Keldsen lived seven years in China where he learned to speak Mandarin and worked for a hotel. He was later recruited by Nike to head its Asia-Pacific office for footwear.

While the Philippines isn’t the biggest market for Nike in Asia, Keldsen says it’s close to his heart, not only because he’s half-Filipino. "Although I was born in the U.S., I’ve never lost contact with my relatives in Pampanga," he notes. "I’ve made at least 10 trips to the Philippines. I know how passionate the Filipinos are as sports fans. I’ve seen PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) games. It’s that passion for sports that makes the Philippine market a priority for Nike."

Keldsen supervises Nike’s footwear division. He says Nike closed its factories in the Philippines in the wake of the Asian currency crisis in 1997. Nike shoes are still manufactured in Thailand, Indonesia, China, Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

Keldsen says Nike sells about 200 million pairs of shoes a year and one of every three Americans has bought Nikes. There are at least 3,000 shoe styles to choose from and Keldsen says the company has new models queued for launch up to 2002.

Keldsen attributes Nike’s success to its vision. In the future, he foresees Nike creating wider access to its footwear for all kinds of economic levels as shoes become more affordable. Keldsen likens the development of Nike’s market mix to a pyramid where expansion will spread to a bigger base. He says the footwear and apparel groups are working closely to create models suited to the conditions and tastes of specific geographical markets such as Asia.

He insists Nike is by far the leading shoe brand in the market. "The ‘lust factor’ is incredible," he explains. "When Nike comes out with a new model, everyone wants to have it. A lot of research goes behind each shoe – for us, the marriage of performance and style in a shoe is critical."
* * *
There are about 50 Filipinos of some 4,000 employed at the Nike World Headquarters, also known as the campus. The average age of employees is 32. Around the world, Nike employs about 26,000.

A Filipino working at the campus is Mel Comoda, former aide-de-camp of Philippine Air Force Brig. Gen. Loven Abadia. Comoda, 41, retired from the Air Force as a Major two years ago and joined his wife Myrna and their two sons Ron, 9, and Mel, 4, in Portland where they are settled.

Comoda, a shipping clerk, says at Nike, whom you know isn’t important – it’s how hard you work. "If you work hard, you’ll be appreciated and recognized," says Comoda. "Personal relationships are not a factor. Kung maganda ang trabaho mo, maganda ang trato nila sa ‘yo."
* * *
Another Nike employee Jeff Hollister nearly married a Filipina in 1970. He often docked at Subic Bay during his US Navy stint and met Nelly Malasarte in Olongapo. Hollister, 54, says he was to be married to an American girl when he met Malasarte and broke his engagement for her. But when he returned home to the U.S., she wrote him only once and soon the romance fizzled out.

Hollister was a trackster at the University of Oregon whose coach was Bill Bowerman in 1967. A year later, he started working for Bowerman and Phil Knight, the Nike founders. Hollister earned a $2 commission for every $9.95 pair he sold.

Then, Hollister joined the Navy. When he was discharged in 1971, he left a $15,000 annual job in the Navy to accept a $7,500 to continue working for Bowerman and Knight.

Hollister has been involved in various aspects of Nike’s operations. One of his achievements was creating Nike’s aquasock. He says Bowerman and Knight were perfect as a team – Bowerman, who died last year at 88, had the laser vision to focus on the micro while Knight’s broad outlook provided the macro perspective. The late runner Steve Prefontaine was a key contributor to the company’s early success as he provided the athlete’s point of view in charting its growth. Hollister says Prefontaine embodied the three Cs – he was competitive, charismatic, and consistent.

A FILIPINO AIR FORCE ALTHOUGH I ANGELES CITY ANOTHER NIKE BOWERMAN AND KNIGHT COMODA HOLLISTER KELDSEN NIKE
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