Charles “Chuck” Knight, who grew St. Louis-based Emerson from $1 billion to more than $15 billion in revenue during his 27 years as chief executive, died Tuesday morning from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 81.
Knight was 37 when he was named CEO of Emerson in 1973, which at the time made him the youngest CEO to head a billion-dollar U.S. corporation.
He took the company from a domestic manufacturer with a dozen divisions to a global industrial technology giant with 60 businesses. He grew Emerson from low-margin products such as electric motors to a more technology-based, profitable line serving process industries, climate technology customers and network power systems. The company’s international sales grew from 12 percent to nearly 40 percent.
He stepped down as CEO in 2000 and remained chairman until 2004. Emerson’s record of increased earnings per share and dividends for every year of his tenure as CEO was among the longest in U.S. business, the company said.