John Chambers retired from Cisco more than two years ago, but he’s been serving as executive chairman of Cisco’s board of directors. Now, he plans to retire from that post as well.
Chambers, 68, notified the Cisco board that he will not stand for re-election when his term expires at the annual meeting of shareholders on Dec. 11. The board plans to appoint Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins to serve as chairman when Chambers’ term expires.
Chambers was one of the longest-running CEOs in Silicon Valley, serving for 20 years from January 1995 to July 26, 2015 as Cisco’s CEO. He initially joined the company in 1991 as the head of sales. Under his leadership as CEO, the company grew from $1.2 billion in annual revenue to nearly $50 billion.
At the December annual meeting, the Cisco board plans to reduce the size of the board to 11 members, 10 of whom will be independent directors.
In his letter to the board, Chambers said, “Every transition we have gone through at Cisco has been a world class example of transparency and execution. That has also been true over the last two years over our transition of the CEO position from me to Chuck.”
It’s unclear how much influence Chambers has had during the last two years. But with his withdrawal from the board and Robbins’ appointment as executive chairman, Robbins will clearly obtain more complete control over the company.
Robbins has been making a concerted effort to steer Cisco toward software. In May, Cisco announced it had created a software licensing agreement for use across its product areas, including collaboration, security, and infrastructure products.
And Robbins has also stressed Cisco’s security portfolio. He named David Goeckeler, formerly the head of security, to lead up both networking and security at the company. At a Deutsche Bank event last week Goeckeler said, “I think we’ve arrived at a point in the world where you cannot build a world-class enterprise security architecture without leveraging the network.”
Another strategic move under Robbins’ reign so far was the company’s announcement of intent-based networking this summer. Robbins said intent-based networking will “redefine the network for the next 30 years.”
While Robbins navigates the choppy waters between being a hardware company and moving toward more software, he still champions hardware. At Mobile World Congress in Feburary, he said, “The Internet and the traffic that runs on the Internet I think is increasing. I don’t think increased traffic loads is going to result in a demand for less hardware.”
Photo: Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins.