Cisco CEO Chambers hints at retirement

Cisco CEO John Chambers says he may retire in two to four years and named several executives who could succeed him, according to Bloomberg.

There are as many as 10 candidates to assumed leadership of Cisco when Chambers retires, he told Bloomberg. 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.

And in the case of Chambers' sudden departure or inability to lead the company -- what he described to Bloomberg as a "hit by a bus scenario" -- COO Gary Moore would take the helm. In any event, the next CEO will come from within the company, Chambers told Bloomberg.

GOING, GOING ... 10 Cisco executive departures over the past year

Cisco's board reviews potential successors to the CEO quarterly, Chamber said. Chambers said he'd then stay on as chairman "assuming the board wants me to and assuming the shareholders do."

Chambers said he is already allocating more responsibility to potential successors.

"You're going to see me move our players around to get more responsibility," Chambers told Bloomberg. ''We've started that and you'll see us increase that overall. I can no longer bring up my leaders in silos."

Chambers, 63, has been CEO at Cisco since 1995. During that time Cisco grew from a $2 billion company to a $46 billion behemoth and one of the most valuable companies in the world.

Chambers told Bloomberg that culture and salary have helped the company retain executives even as competitors try to lure them away with compensation as high as five times what they get at Cisco. Nonetheless, some high-profile executives have departed recently following a tumultuous year or so in which Cisco restructured management and operations, and cut back or cut loose disappointing product lines.

Among those departing over the past year include Chief Strategy Officer Ned Hooper; Paul Mountford, senior vice president of global enterprise sales; Laura Ipsen, who had been Cisco's Global Policy and Government Affairs head; and Amanda Jobbins, vice president of global partner marketing.

Chambers' reluctance to relinquish the top job was said to have hastened the departures of heirs apparent Mike Volpi and Charlie Giancarlo several years back as well.

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 25 years, 21 at Network World. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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