NAND flash co-inventor Mehrotra leads Micron

Article By : Rick Merritt

Micron has named former SanDisk CEO and co-inventor of NAND flash, Sanjay Mehrotra, as its president and CEO effective May 8.

Micron Technology Inc. has Sanjay Mehrotra as its president and CEO, effective May 8, succeeding Mark Durcan, who had sought retirement for some time.

Mehrotra was one of three co-inventors of NAND flash, along with Eli Harari, the founding CEO of SanDisk. When Harari retired in 2011, Mehrotra succeeded him as SanDisk CEO until Western Digital acquired the company in a $19 billion merger announced in late 2015.

The change in leadership at Micron comes at a time when memory vendors are on a short-term tear amid rising chip prices. Long term, they face challenges from emerging classes of memory chips and China’s hunger to buy its way into the market for DRAM and flash.

SanDisk revenues rose significantly during Mehrotra’s tenure as the company built out a portfolio of chip and card-level products.

"He’ll be a breath of fresh air for Micron. He’s a real dynamo and comes from a different background — I expect he’ll put stronger focus on the Crucial consumer brand,” said Jim Handy, principal of Objective Analysis.

China challenge

“The most frightening challenge ahead is China’s investment in memory capacity,” said Handy. “China doesn’t care if it’s profitable, it just wants 30% of the memory market and that’s a threat to the existence of any company,” he added.

Indeed, China made a bid for Micron in 2015. It currently is ramping and negotiating multiple efforts to make DRAMs and flash.

On the technology front, the new CEO arrives at a time when new memory types are expected to emerge. Last year, Micron announced its Quantx drives, using the 3DXP chips co-developed with Intel. It also started shipping its 3D NAND flash last year.

Micron has talked about two other next-generation memory projects in its labs. Observers expect industrywide as many as five new storage-class memories will emerge in the next three years.

In the short term, Micron will ride the crest of rising memory prices. Gartner expects the semiconductor industry could see 12% growth this year, largely due to rising prices of DRAMs and flash.

In naming the new CEO, the Micron board is not looking to revise the company’s direction, it said. Thus, Mehrotra is not expected to institute strategic shifts in the short term.

Mehrotra is among the shrinking ranks of executives who rose up from engineering. He holds more than 70 patents and has published articles in the area of nonvolatile memory design and flash memory systems.

In February, Durcan announced his desire to retire. He will serve as an advisor to the company until early August.

Durcan was originally set to retire as chief operating officer of Micron in 2012 when longtime Micron leader Steve Appleton died in a plane crash. Durcan put his retirement on hold and was appointed to the helm of Micron three days later.

"Mark has made an immense contribution to Micron and to the semiconductor industry at large over his 32 years at the company and 5 years as CEO," said Robert E. Switz, chairman of the board of directors and a member of the CEO selection committee.

"Sanjay has an outstanding track record of business success and exceptional knowledge of the memory and storage industry," Switz said, in a press statement. "His experience in markets ranging from consumer to enterprise make him uniquely qualified to lead Micron into the future."

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