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Pierson "Sandy" Grieve led a transformation of Ecolab in the 1980s and 1990s that made it the powerhouse it is today. He also served as part of the Twin Cities' glue, serving on boards from the airport commission to the Guthrie Theater and raising money for the first Dorothy Day Center.

To daughter Peggy Grieve, though, he was a doting father who told his three children that Santa Claus much preferred pizza on Christmas Eve.

He died Feb. 24 at his home in Naples, Fla. He was 96.

"We mourn the passing of Sandy Grieve, a visionary leader who left his mark on the Minnesota business community," said Christophe Beck, the current CEO of Ecolab. "Sandy's influence on Ecolab was profound."

Born on a small farm near Flint, Mich., he got the lifelong nickname of Sandy from his shock of baby blond hair, his daughter said. He showed an early entrepreneurial spirit setting up a lawn care business. After graduating from high school in Jackson, Mich., he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served at the Great Lakes Naval Station in northern Illinois. He attended Northwestern University, where he studied business and met his wife, Florence Brogan.

His career took off quickly, becoming president of a company called Rap-In-Wax in Minneapolis by the time he was 30. He eventually became the head of an auto parts company in Toledo, Ohio, where he was recruited to be the next CEO of what was then Economics Laboratory Inc.

Grieve was the fourth of seven Ecolab chief executives in its 100-year history, and the first hired from outside the company.

Under Grieve's tenure from 1983-1995, annual revenue for the company grew from $500 million to more than $1.3 billion, serving 26 countries. Through the "Circle the Customer, Circle the Globe" strategy he put in place, the company has since increased revenue to $15.3 billion and grown its presence to 170 countries.

Grieve was known for two strategic decisions that set Ecolab up for even more growth and success.

In 1986, he changed the company name from Economic Laboratory, and in 1987, he sold the company's consumer division that made Electrasol, Finish and Jet-Dry dishwashing products to the Joh. A. Benckiser company of West Germany for $242.5 million. (Now known as JAB Holding, it owns Caribou Coffee.)

At the time, the consumer division was Ecolab's largest business, generating more than a quarter of the company's total revenue. But its share in the dishwasher detergent market had been slipping, and Ecolab was competing with consumer packaged goods giants like Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive.

The move allowed Ecolab to focus on its institutional, hospitality and commercial markets. The company's stock listing at the same time moved to the New York Stock Exchange, giving the company an increased presence with institutional investors and the ability to make more kinds of acquisitions, including more international deals.

"Getting us focused, and rebranding the company, were two huge things that happened under his leadership," said Doug Baker, Ecolab's sixth CEO. "From there, a lot of good things accrued."

Grieve spread his business influence by serving on the boards of a number of local companies.

A civic-minded leader, he also sat on a number of nonprofit boards, including the Metropolitan Airports Commission, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Guthrie Theater, the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, and the University of St. Thomas.

He was one of the major people behind raising funds for the first Dorothy Day Center in downtown St. Paul.

"Here it was at my back door," he told the University of St. Thomas in a 2003 St. Thomas magazine piece. "I could see the building from my office. That wasn't a hard project to raise money for, and boy, has it made a difference."

George Latimer, the mayor of St. Paul from 1976 to 1990, said of Grieve's influence: "For that to be built right in the shadow of their own big corporate offices — to me that's patriotism."

Preceded in death by his wife, he is survived by their three children and numerous grandchildren. A family funeral will take place at Assumption Church in St. Paul. A celebration of life will be held in late spring.