Micron (MU) CEO dies unexpectedly; company shares succession plan

Update February 27, 2012 – Memorial funds have been established in Mr. Appleton’s name with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Boise State University Foundation. The Micron Foundation has donated $25,000 to each of the funds in honor of Mr. Appleton.

February 6, 2012 — Micron Technology Inc. (Nasdaq:MU) long-time CEO and chairman Steve Appleton passed away, the only casualty in a small plane accident in Boise, ID, the company announced via GLOBE NEWSWIRE. MU named Mark Durcan, Micron president and COO, to fill the vacant CEO post, and serve on the Board.

Durcan was president and COO at Micron since 2007, and also had spent time as its CTO. He joined the company in 1984. Durcan expressed grief in a statement to the media, calling Appleton "a true friend." The company shared support for Appleton’s wife, Dalynn, his children and his family.

Late in 2011, the SIA awarded its highest honor, the Robert N. Noyce Award, to Steve Appleton. Read about his contribution to the semiconductor association here.

The Board of Directors named director Robert E. Switz as chairman of the Board. Switz has served as a director since 2006 and is the former chairman and CEO of ADC Telecommunications. He has previously served as chair of the Micron Board’s Audit and Governance committees.

Mark W. Adams will take over as MU president. Adams joined the company in 2006 and served most recently as VP of worldwide sales.

Around the industry:

Appleton was "a great leader" and accomplished aerobat, said Jim Handy of OBJECTIVE ANALYSIS, Semiconductor Market Research, in an alert compiled with help from Lane Mason. "Under his guidance the company became the last surviving US DRAM manufacturer and turned around a number of failing DRAM businesses it acquired from Texas Instruments, Toshiba, Qimonda, and others, while investing in businesses outside of its core DRAM strength including a recent acquisition of NOR maker Numonyx." Handy adds that Durcan will have to decide whether or not to stay with Micron past his planned retirement in August 2012.

The Semiconductor Industry Association noted that Appleton was a longstanding member of the Board of SIA, making "immense contributions to the semiconductor industry and our country." SIA extends its deepest sympathies to Steve’s family and the entire Micron community. 

"His passing is a loss for the industry," added SEMI. Appleton many times was "an enthusiastic and inspirational speaker at SEMI events."

"Micron has a long history of leadership in the development of open industry standards through JEDEC, and we are grateful to Steve and his team for their support over the years," expressed standards organization JEDEC.

While expressing sorrow about the death of Micron CEO Steve Appleton, Nanya Technology VP Pai Pei-lin said his company will forge closer business ties with the US memory company, with which Nanya runs a JV.

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Micron will host an analyst conference on February 10, with Durcan and other executive officers tol present Micron’s strategy and provide an update on current market conditions. CJ Muse of Barclays Capital expects the analyst day to be significantly complicated by Appleton’s passing, but did offer some predictions: "DRAM ASPs have troughed and will move higher into 2Q and beyond, driven by pent up PC demand as HDD normalization arrives in 2H12. DRAM consolidation should enable Micron to obtain cheap capacity that can eventually be converted to NAND. Increasing leverage to NAND at Micron supported by Ultrabook/SSD adoption…NAND will equal ~50 of revenues by 2013." The focus, Muse expects, in the near term will turn to CEO succession actions.

Micron Technology Inc. is an advanced semiconductor company manufacturing DRAM, NAND and NOR flash, and other memory chips. Micron’s common stock is traded on the NASDAQ under the MU symbol. To learn more about Micron Technology, Inc., visit www.micron.com.

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