Philip Knight, the co-founder of Nike, has resigned as the athletic apparel giant's chief executive officer and president.

Knight will be succeeded by William Perez who runs privately-held consumer products company SC Johnson & Son, but says he plans to stay on as chairman of the board.

Knight has not given a reason for his resignation, which is effective 28 December.

"I am confident that as CEO of Nike Inc, Bill will lead Nike's extraordinary team of people to create an even bigger and better global company," Knight said in a statement.

Financial experts say Nike needs a chief executive well equipped to deal with a number of different brands following its acquisitions of sports companies Converse and Starter.

Perez also has considerable experience in international marketing, which has been pinpointed as a key area of the company's development, as it plans to further expand its presence overseas.

In September, Nike reported a 25 per cent increase in first-quarter profit. The company also reported a large rise in US orders, up 11 per cent to $1.4 billion.