Micron CEO killed in plane crash, industry stunned
San Francisco, February 4, 2012
Micron Technology chief executive and chairman Steve Appleton died in a small plane crash on Friday, a major loss for a US memory chipmaker already struggling with sluggish computer sales and declining prices.
The 51-year-old Appleton, a three-decade industry veteran who performed stunts at airshows, died after the small plane he was piloting crashed at an airport in Boise, Idaho, where the chipmaker is headquartered.
His death stunned the tight-knit semiconductor industry. Appleton was a prominent figure in Boise, a city of 200,000 in the western United States, and a member of the Idaho Business Council.
President and chief operating officer Mark Durcan, who was due to retire in August, will take up the CEO's responsibilities until the company's board can appoint a permanent successor. Directors will meet over the weekend, Micron said in a statement.
Shares in Micron, halted prior to the announcement, resumed trade after the regular market close and promptly slid 6 per cent.
'Steve was a high-energy, never-give-up type of inspirational leader of the company. The entire industry will miss Steve's energy,' said Stifel Nicolaus analyst Kevin Cassidy. 'That said, Micron has a deep bench of managers that shared Steve's vision.'
The accident happened while Appleton flew an experimental Lancair single-engine airplane, Boise Airport spokeswoman Patti Miller told Reuters. Lancair sells kits to build high-end planes.
After taking off and reaching an altitude of about 200 feet, Appleton radioed that he had a problem and needed to turn around, Boise police spokeswoman Lynn Hightower told reporters.
The aircraft rolled left, then plummeted to the ground, where it crashed, causing a large fire and leaving a twisted, black wreckage.
Appleton, a California native, joined Micron to work a night shift right after graduating from Boise State University in 1983. His subsequent meteoric ascent led to his becoming the youngest CEO on the Fortune 500 at the age of 34, in 1994.
He resigned in 1996, amid speculation about a boardroom power struggle, only to return nine days later after the board asked him to reconsider.
Appleton, a noted sports enthusiast who also scuba-dived, surfed and raced offroad cars and motorcycles, received the prestigious Robert Noyce award - the industry's highest honor - from the Semiconductor Industry Association in 2011.-Reuters