Micron names new CEO in wake of Steve Appleton's death in plane crash

COO Mark Durcan cancels retirement plans to take helm of semiconductor player

Less than two weeks ago, Micron chief operating officer Mark Durcan was announcing his planned retirement next August from the semiconductor manufacturer he had worked for nearly three decades.

Those plans may have changed, at least temporarily, following the death Friday morning of Micron CEO Steve Appleton, who was killed when the experimental plane he was piloting crashed shortly after takeoff at the airport in Boise, Idaho, where the company is headquartered.

Hours after after crash, Durcan was named Micron's interim chief executive "pursuant to the company's bylaws," the board of directors announced.

The next day, the board removed the word "interim," and Durcan was officially named chief executive and chairman of the company's board. Micron also announced that the 51-year-old no longer was planning to leave in August.

Shares of Micron (NASDAQ: MU) were down 20 cents, or 2.45%, to 7.76 in Monday's late-morning trading.

Like Appleton, Durcan was a longtime Micron employee, joining the company in 1984. He became VP of research and chief technology officer in 1997, COO in 2006 and president a year later.

When it was announced on January 26 that Durcan was leaving, Appleton said in a press release, "For the past 28 years Mark has played an integral role in the company's growth and success. We appreciate his willingness to serve through the remainder of the fiscal year to ensure a smooth transition of his duties to his successor. We will miss Mark's leadership and guidance, and wish him well in his future endeavors."

Now, I'd say whether Durcan truly is changing his retirement plans depends on why he was leaving the company in the first place. It could be that he will hold down the fort while the board searches for a more permanent replacement for the late Appleton. I don't think the board's decision to ditch the "interim" label for Durcan necessarily negates this possibility. Stability -- or at least the appearance of stability -- is important for public companies, and shareholders generally are understandably averse to anything "interim."

But if I were a director, I might question the wisdom of putting the company into the hands of a guy who was headed out the door. Unless Durcan was leaving because he thought he'd never get the top job at Micron. Clearly Appleton's tragic death changed that.

Durcan and other Micron executives have scheduled a conference with analysts for Friday at 7 a.m. MT. It'll be interesting to see what comes out of it.

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