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Micron CEO Appleton dies in plane crash, Shocks Industry

Micron Technology Inc has lost it’s CEO and Chariman Steve Appleton in a small plane crash on Friday. As Micron Technology is already struggling to make ends meet this loss will further drag it behind.

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.

Shares in Micron, halted prior to the announcement, resumed trade after the regular market close and promptly slid 6 percent.

“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.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter said Appleton was sensitive to how job cuts by Micron in recent years affected the community.

“He called me and told me about the layoffs coming up and explained how the business-end of chip technology would develop and that Micron would come out strong on the other end. And it happened exactly the way he said it would,” Bieter told reporters.

The loss of Micron’s dealmaker could waylay a possible acquisition of troubled Japanese rival Elpida Memory. Saddled with millions of dollars in operating losses and major upcoming debt payments, Elpida may be in talks to be bought by Micron or reach some kind of partnership, media recently speculated.

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