Pentair Co-Founder, Former CEO Harpole Dies at 89

Murray J. Harpole started the company in 1966 and became its first CEO; 20 years later, after 15 at the helm and another five on its board, Pentair's revenues totaled $1.2 billion and it employed more than 8,000.

The retired chairman, CEO, and co-founder of Pentair, Inc., died suddenly on May 16 at the age of 89, the company said Monday.

Murray J. Harpole was one of five founding partners who started Golden Valley-based Pentair in 1966 as a company that manufactured research balloons. That same year, he became the company's first chairman and CEO-a position that he occupied for 15 years. After leaving the CEO position, he served as chairman for another five years and retired from the company's board in 1991.

By the time Harpole left, Pentair had become a diversified manufacturer with annual sales of $1.2 billion and more than 8,000 employees.

In 1992, Harpole authored the book “Living the American Dream: Pentair, Inc.-The First 25 Years.” It detailed Pentair's humble beginnings and key milestones.

“Murray built Pentair from the ground up. Among his many significant contributions, his passion for conducting business with the highest ethical standards remains a cornerstone value at Pentair,” Randall J. Hogan, Pentair's current chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “Although times have changed since Murray first wrote our company's code of ethics, the business principles he put in place have not.”

Aside from his contributions at Pentair, Harpole was an ardent supporter of higher education. He served in various leadership positions at his alma mater, Iowa State University (ISU), and the University of St. Thomas. In 2000, Harpole and his wife, Ruth M. Harpole, created the Harpole Professorship in Electrical Engineering at ISU. The endowment supports professors who are leaders in developing electrical and computer engineering-related academic courses and research programs. Harpole also supported the Greater St. Paul YMCA and YMCA Camp du Nord-and he was active on the boards of several corporations.

Pentair's water group provides products and systems used worldwide in the movement, treatment, storage, and enjoyment of water. Its technical products group designs and manufactures thermal management products and standard, modified, and custom enclosures that protect sensitive electronics.

Pentair is among Minnesota's 25-largest public companies based on its 2009 revenue, which totaled $2.7 billion. The company reported 2010 revenue of $3 billion.