Micron appoints new CEO in wake of Appleton’s death

Micron Technology said yesterday it has appointed D. Mark Durcan to replace chief executive Steve Appleton, who died Friday when the small experimental plane he was piloting crashed at the Boise airport.

Durcan was previously Micron’s president and chief operating officer. While the loss of Appleton, the long time CEO, is devastating, the largest American manufacturer of memory chips has had the advantage of having stable management for a long time. Part of the reason is that its Boise, Idaho-based location is far removed from other chip companies that might poach employees. But Micron has also been an exceedingly well-run company in a volatile price-sensitive industry.

Durcan, 51, will be joined by Robert Switz, who will succeed Appleton as chairman of the board. And Mark W. Adams will serve as president. Switz has been a director since 2006 and is the former CEO of ADC Telecommunications.

Adams joined the company in 2006 and was most recently vice president of worldwide sales.

Appleton’s shoes will be hard to fill. He was a popular executive who was awarded the chip industry’s highest honor, the Robert N. Noyce award, by the Semiconductor Industry Association last fall. Appleton helped galvanize industry and government action against foreign memory chip makers that were

During that award ceremony, Analog Devices chairman Ray Stata said that Appleton was a “daredevil at heart.” Appleton flew stunt planes, raced motorcycles, wakeboarding, scuba diving and offroad racing. He was a black belt in taekwondo. In the Tecate Score Baja 1000 offroad race, Appleton finished first in the dune buggy race.

But that daredevil life took its toll in the end. On Friday, Appleton was killed while attempting an emergency landing in a Lancair IV-PT turboprop plane.

“We are deeply saddened by Steve’s loss and will miss his hand at the helm,” Mr. Durcan said in the company’s statement. “I have provided the board my ongoing commitment to work with the management team and continue to move the company forward.”

Durcan has been president and COO since 2007 and was previously Micron’s chief technology officer. He joined the company in 1984. In past interviews, Durcan explained that Micron has been able to stay ahead in the memory chip business not because it spent the most money on manufacturing. Rather, it has honed its design skills so that its chips could be built with fewer steps and therefore had lower production costs.

“We are fortunate to be able to appoint someone with Mark’s operations and technical leadership experience to serve as the company’s CEO,” said Switz. “Mark has been instrumental in Micron’s success in his role as President and COO and has garnered the respect of the company, his team members and the industry at large.”