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Phil and Penny Knight invest $400M in Portland's historic Albina neighborhood

The money will be managed by a newly established 1803 Fund, led by former Meyer Memorial Trust chief investment officer Rukaiyah Adams.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Editors note: This story is courtesy of KGW's media partner Portland Business Journal.

Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife Penny Knight announced a $400 million investment in Portland's historic Albina neighborhood Monday afternoon.

The investment, called the Rebuild Albina project, aims to support current and future generations of Black Portlanders through investments in education, place and culture and belonging in the Albina community.

The money will be managed by a newly established 1803 Fund, led by former Meyer Memorial Trust chief investment officer Rukaiyah Adams. It will be overseen by a board of directors including Tony Hopson, founder and CEO of Self-Enhancement Inc., Ron Herndon, founder of the Portland chapter of the Black United Front and CEO of Albina Head Start, Nike CEO John Donahoe, and Larry Miller, chairman of Nike’s Michael Jordan Brand.

Knight and his wife, Penny, have a history of charitable giving, putting them at No. 4 nationally in philanthropy with more than a billion dollars donated in 2020. Adams is an expert in Portland’s investing world and spent eight years as the chief investment officer at Meyer Memorial Trust, one of the state’s largest grant making organizations.

"Penny and I have long believed in the community of Portland. Some of my most important memories are connected to the Eastside of Portland, including in Lower Albina. Jefferson High School, under the leadership of coaches Bill Sorsby and Doug Basham, was the center of the 'all comers' track meets of my youth. The handshake deal with Bill Bowerman that launched Nike happened in Lower Albina near Memorial Coliseum," Phil Knight said in a press release. "And Lower Albina was the focus of the initial agreement struck with Ron Herndon and Tony Hopson to build a Nike retail store with a share of the profits invested back into the community."

The 1803 Fund will combine elements of private investing and philanthropy to focus on strengthening Portland's Black community through collective prosperity.

"This investment is unparalleled, and has the potential to significantly change the culture and landscape of Portland," Adams said in a press release. "A place-based effort of this magnitude is unique and has never been done before in Portland — let alone the United States."

Adams, a fourth-generation Oregonian whose family roots are in the Lower Albina neighborhood, returned to her home in 2012 to be director of investment management for The Standard after working in corporate law in San Francisco.

While at The Standard she managed an investment fund of $7 billion. She was also past chair and spent six years on the Oregon Investment Council, which oversees the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund.

Adams also spent eight years as the chief investment officer at Meyer Memorial Trust, where she guided the endowment past $1 billion for the first time.

In 2021, the Meyer endowment had a one-year rate of return of 16.56%, and Adams left the organization in August 2022.

Adams has worked to ensure capital reaches women and entrepreneurs of color, and is a leader in an effort to rebuild a portion of the historically Black Lower Albina neighborhood, destroyed by urban renewal.

The Knights have pledged to give away the majority of their wealth, estimated to be more than $45 billion, the largest fortune in Oregon. Of the more than a billion dollars the couple donated in 2020, $465 million went to the University of Oregon and $900.7 million to the Knight Foundation, a private foundation the family formed in 1997.

In 2018, the Business Journal published a cover story about the Knight family's philanthropy, showing the family's charitable work goes beyond high-profile and, sometimes controversial, gifts to the University of Oregon, Stanford and Oregon Health and Science University.

Nike Inc. has invested millions over the last few years into local and national organizations focused on economic empowerment, education, social justice and racial inequality in the U.S. The endowment, called the Black Community Commitment, pledged $140 million over 10 years to dozens of organizations, including several local Portland nonprofits that said they simply would no longer exist without Nike’s support.

Malia Spencer contributed to this story.

WATCH: Albina 1980 (KGW documentary)

Note: 'Albina 1980' is a follow-up to KGW's 1967 KGW documentary 'Albina: Portland's Ghetto of the Mind,' about North Portland's Albina neighborhood.

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