Cisco’s John Chambers floats possible retirement and succession plans

John Chambers, Cisco CEO

John Chambers, the CEO and chairman of network giant Cisco floated the idea of his retirement today in an interview with Bloomberg. Chambers, who has been the CEO at Cisco since 1995 and is 63 years old, said that he may retire within the next two to four years and named a few successors. He also said his successor would likely come from within the company.

As far as definitive statements go, his “announcement” is pretty nebulous and there’s nothing to guarantee that Chambers wouldn’t pull a Joe Tucci (the CEO of EMC who still hasn’t retired) and stick around longer than the two-to-four years he gave Tuesday if the board and he thought it was the right thing to do. However, he did disclose that he and the board have a list of about 10 possible successors. He said 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 are on the list.

Perhaps after the departure of other presumed heirs such as Charlie Giancarlo, Ned Hooper or Mike Volpe, Chambers and the board are trying to keep the top names interested in sticking around as Cisco revamps itself for the new IT environment.

Of the names mentioned, the most interesting might be Overbeek who has overseen Cisco’s Asia Pacific, Japan and Greater China region in a previous role. Since Chambers has repeatedly said that the biggest threat to Cisco comes from Chinese companies including Huawei, Overbeek may be in the best position to counter that threat. However, sources in Cisco note that Lloyd has been a favorite of management for a few years. In general, playing the Cisco succession game is a common company pastime and with 10 possible names on the list its easy to see why so many people get frustrated and leave.


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