ST. LOUIS — Charles F. Knight, who led a period of tremendous growth as CEO of the technology and engineering company Emerson for nearly three decades, has died.

A spokesman for the St. Louis County-based company says Knight died Tuesday at an area hospital of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 81.

Knight was just 37 when he joined Emerson as chief executive officer in 1973. He retired as CEO in 2000 but remained as chairman of the board until 2004.

During his tenure as CEO, Emerson’s annual revenue grew from $1 billion to $15 billion, the product line diversified and international operations grew. The company is ranked 139th among the Fortune 500, with 74,000 employees worldwide.

Knight is survived by his wife, Joanne; four children; 12 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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