Steve Appleton, the 35-year-old wunderkind who rose from production line worker to chairman of Micron Technology Inc. in less than a dozen years, resigned from the semiconductor company on Thursday.
In a terse one-page statement, the Boise-based company said Appleton had resigned as chairman, chief executive officer, president and a director of Micron “for personal reasons,” effective immediately.
“I was shocked,” said Fred Zieber, president of Pathfinder Research in San Jose, Calif., a company that tracks the semiconductor industry. “I have no idea what happened. I mean, you know he and Simplot crossed swords. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.”
Billionaire J.R. Simplot of Boise is Micron’s largest investor with control of more than 20 percent of the company’s stock personally and through a trust.
Micron said Tyler Lowrey, vice chairman of the board and chief technical officer, was elected chairman and chief executive officer Thursday.
The company said Appleton would continue to serve in a consulting capacity for about nine months. He also resigned as a director of Micron Electronics Inc., a subsidiary of Micron Technology.
Appleton, a protege of Micron founder and former chairman Joe Parkinson, joined Micron in February 1983 and worked in various manufacturing and management positions until April 1988, when he was named director of manufacturing. He was appointed vice president of manufacturing in August 1989 and president and chief operating officer in April 1991.
He became chairman, president and chief executive officer of Micron Semiconductor Inc., another Micron Technology subsidiary, in July 1992, and was elected chairman when Parkinson was ousted in September 1994 after reportedly locking horns with Simplot.
Lowrey, 42, joined Micron in July 1984 as a senior process engineer and rose through the ranks to become Micron Technology’s vice chairman and chief technical officer in September 1994.