Emerson CEO Dave Farr to Retire After 21 Years



David Farr,

the chief executive of

Emerson Electric Co.


EMR 1.89%

, is retiring this week after 21 years in the role and handing over leadership of the manufacturing company to another Emerson veteran.

Mr. Farr, who recently turned 66 and took over in 2000, is one of the longest-serving CEOs in the S&P 500. He will remain chairman of the board until May 4.

The St. Louis-based industrial company named the head of its automation business,

Lal Karsanbhai,

to succeed Mr. Farr and join the board. Mr. Karsanbhai will be the fourth CEO at Emerson in 66 years. The 85,000-person conglomerate makes everything from Ridgid pipe wrenches to automation software for power plants.

“We are confident Lal is well-positioned to continue building on Emerson’s legacy of success,” Mr. Farr said. He had previously said he planned to retire in 2021, and Emerson’s succession planning for the change spanned five years.

Emerson continues to navigate a pandemic that upended its business along with the rest of the global economy. Mr. Farr took a hands-on approach to the crisis and never stopped going to the office with his top executives in 2020, even as much of the world was working from home. The company continued to provide financial projections and kept its dividend intact during a time when companies were hunkering down during unprecedented uncertainty.

Mr. Farr leaves with Emerson’s stock performing well, rising 28% in the past six months while the S&P 500 is up about 14% in the same period. Since he took over in October 2000, Emerson shares have a 287% total return, including dividends, which is the same as the S&P 500 index for the period and well above the 227% return for the S&P Capital Goods Industry Group Index. He outlasted many of his peers, staying at the helm while manufacturers such as

Caterpillar Inc.

and

General Electric Co.

shuffled through CEOs.

Mr. Karsanbhai joined Emerson in 1995 and since 2018 has led one of the company’s two main divisions with $11.2 billion in 2020 sales. The business makes automation software and systems for manufacturers, oil producers and utilities. He has an economics degree from University of Michigan and an M.B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis.

Emerson reports first-quarter results on Tuesday and also plans an investor meeting in mid-February.

Write to Thomas Gryta at thomas.gryta@wsj.com

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