After years of anticipation, Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers has finally announced his retirement. Cisco’s Board of Directors today appointed long-time Cisco executive Chuck Robbins as the company’s new Chief Executive Officer, succeeding Chambers effective July 26, 2015.
This will close the book on Chambers’s 20-year reign as Cisco’s CEO, a period in which Cisco rolled up majority market-share in many enterprise networking segments and dominated a wide range of Ethernet and IP-based networking technologies.
In recent months, speculation has been rampant about when Chambers, who is 65, would retire. Chambers joined Cisco as head of sales in 1991 and became CEO in 1995. The Rayno Report last summer predicted an announcement would be imminent, but apparently we were just a wee bit early.
Cisco started the official succession process in January 2014, according to a blog post by Roderick C. McGeary, Cisco Board Member and Chair of the Compensation and Management Development Committee, and Francine Katsoudas, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer.
Robbins is now a member of the Board of Directors of Cisco, effective May 1, 2015. Chambers will assume the role of Executive Chairman on July 26 and will continue to serve as the Chairman of Cisco’s Board, according to Cisco’s official releases.
“This is the perfect time for Chuck Robbins to become Cisco’s next Chief Executive Officer. We’ve selected a very strong leader at a time when Cisco is in a very strong position,” said Chambers in the corporate release.
Robbins joined Cisco in 1997 and most recently served as Cisco’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Operations. His specialty has been working on sales channels and Cisco’s partner program, which the company says is now worth more than $40 billion in revenue. He also built the company’s commercial business segment, which grew 8% year-over-year last quarter and now represents 25% of Cisco’s total business.
Cisco board members piled on the accolades in public statements.
“I’ve had the opportunity to watch Chuck grow as a leader at Cisco over the last 17 years and am convinced there is no better leader for Cisco today,” said Carol Bartz, lead independent director on the Cisco Board.
Chambers will “devote his time to supporting Robbins and engaging closely with customers and governments around the world,” according to Cisco.
Cisco’s stock price barely budged on the news, up $0.07 (0.3%) to $29.20. It’s a fairly predictable move, given that Robbins is a long-time Cisco excutive and has worked closely with Chambers for many years. Both Chambers and Robbins have been working at Cisco since the heydey of the networking company, when it came to power in the mid-to-late nineties.
We’ll have more on this story later in the week once we get some feedback on how partners, customers, and industry experts see Robbins changing the company.