Photo: Getty Images/Ethan Miller
Cisco Systems Inc. Chief Executive Officer John Chambers identified some of the senior leaders at the company that he and the board are considering to succeed him when he retires, which may be within two to four years.There are as many as 10 candidates, which directors review quarterly, Chambers said in an interview today at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York.
They include Robert Lloyd, executive vice president of worldwide operations, Chuck Robbins, senior vice president of the Americas, and Edzard Overbeek, senior vice president of global services.
Chambers has been CEO at Cisco since 1995, among the longest tenures in the quick-shifting technology industry, and his remarks on succession underscore new openness to change at the top of the company. Chambers, 63, navigated Cisco through a rise that briefly made it the world’s most valuable company. He also guided it through the dot-com bust and the recent recession.
“You begin to look at how these transitions occur, and the job of the board and myself is to make sure this next one goes really smooth,” Chambers said. “Assuming the board wants me to and assuming the shareholders do, I’ll stay on as chairman after that.”
Chambers ordered a management overhaul last year to stem profit-margin erosion and win business lost to Juniper Networks Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., and others. Chambers said leadership changes are helping Cisco, the world’s biggest maker of routers and switches that shuffle data traffic, prepare for a new CEO.
“You’re going to see me move our players around to get more responsibility, Chambers said. ”We’ve started that and you’ll see us increase that overall. I can no longer bring up my leaders in silos.”
Gary Moore, the chief operating officer, would take the CEO role if Chambers were unable to continue suddenly, in what he calls a “hit by the bus scenario.” The next CEO will probably come from within the company, Chambers said.
Chambers said culture and salary have helped the San Jose, California-based company retain executives even as competitors try to lure them away with compensation as high as five times what they get at Cisco.
Ned Hooper, formerly chief strategy officer, left earlier this year to form an investment partnership company. Charlie Giancarlo, the former No. 2 to Chambers, left in 2008 to join Silver Lake Partners. Jayshree Ullal, Mike Volpi and Tony Bates, who were all senior vice presidents, also departed in recent years, as did Hooper’s second in command, Charles Carmel, who left last year for Warburg Pincus LLC.
—Editors: Lisa Rapaport, Reed Stevenson
To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Frier in New York at [email protected]
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nick Turner at [email protected]; Tom Giles at [email protected]
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