A retrospective on the career of Steve Appleton, Chairman and CEO of memory chip vendor Micron Technology, who died Friday in a plane crash.
Steve Appleton, who died Friday Feb.3, 2012, in a plane crash, worked for Micron Technology Inc. throughout his professional career. And soon after he took the top job there in 1994 he became boss of the last U.S. DRAM maker. As such it was a highly politicized position and it suited him; a robust operator who could be vocal against overseas competition.
Throughout his career he sought to grow Micron's scale by picking up businesses here and wafer fabs there, as others lost their appetite for the hard graft. It can be seen that Appleton was a conservative who used U.S. strategic considerations to his company's advantage but who, with his untimely death, has left Micron holding the bag on DRAM and half in and half out of NAND flash memory via a joint venture with Intel.
Appleton was already at Micron in the 1980s, but not yet in a senior position, when anti-dumping suits against Japanese DRAM manufacturers – led by Micron – and SIA petitions to the U.S. government started to have their effect. In September 1986, a semiconductor trade agreement was signed that addressed concerns over dumping of chips at below cost in the U.S. market and access to the Japanese market for U.S. companies. The Japanese specifically undertook to increase foreign companies' market share to 20 percent within five years.
It may well have been these maneuvers that colored Appleton's approach during the next major DRAM crisis.
But in June 1998, soon after Appleton had risen to the position of chairman and CEO at Micron, he was looking to build Micron's position. The company agreed to take over the DRAM business of Texas Instruments Inc., increasing market share but at a time when Micron was making losses due to collapsing selling prices for DRAMs.
folks , it' s time to adopt some religion.
Steve put all his energy and hope in airplanes (20+), it's insane and unhealthy.
he didn't have a full life as he claimed as well, consider his 4 kids left behind...
WRT Steve Appleton, he led a truly unique company. They had (I'm a bit out of touch with recent activity) a lot of internal R&D and didn't hesitate to develop their own solutions. In fact, in some areas with which I was familiar, they had some predatory IP of their own. I think you'll find that any large and successful (as judged by relative longevity) company will tend to be that way.
Well, as an "outsider" at the same JEDEC meetings that RAMBUS was banned from, the description from webserver227 above is quite different from the many companies attending. These included Micron, ATI, Hynix, Infineon, Intel, and many others. I don't want to badmouth Rambus, other than to say that there are two sides to the story.
It saddens me for so many of these comments to be focused on the RDRAM situation. There is so much more to the Steve Appleton story. There are few CEO's that are so approachable, so generous to their communities, and willing to forego salary during hard times. He will be missed.
Aside from Confucious getting lost in translation, Appleton took his chances and paid the price. There are other high profile pilots (such as John Travolta and David Gilmour) who fly safely and grow old. The first rule of doing something dangerous is "Don't screw up". If you can't guarantee that, don't do it.
Nice piece Peter. As you say, Steve played a sometimes poor hand of cards well. As a pilot myself, I also am very sorry to see that cause his death. Yes, those who never take risks may have a longer lifespan, but ultimately what's the point of life unless you make something of it.
In the movies, the coward guy normally runs to the cops for plea agreement for immunity. That is exactly what Appleton did after the doj investigated priing fixing charges during the time when Intel was transitioning to RDRAM for an amestry agreement and no Micron employees went to jail.