Cisco: Chambers to Be 'Wingman' to Robbins

Longtime Cisco CEO John Chambers plans to take a part-time advisory "wingman" role in his new position as executive chairman, leaving successor Chuck Robbins to run things.

"So let me first say it very crisply. Chuck is the CEO, period," Chambers said in response to a question about succession on the company's earnings call Wednesday. (See Cisco Earnings: Carriers Cast Shadow Over Sunny Quarter.)

Chambers announced last week he plans to retire in July after 20 years as CEO, and the company named as his successor Chuck Robbins, current senior VP worldwide field operation and director. Robbins joined Chambers on the earnings call -- almost certainly Chambers's last. (See Cisco's Robbins to Replace Chambers as CEO and Chambers's Legacy: A Resurgent Cisco .)

"I will be an advisor to him and I'll be very involved where he wants me to be," Chambers said. "The things I love most are vision and strategy. I love time with customers, strategic partnerships, acquisitions and whatever else Chuck wants me to do."

Chambers added, "I will be his wingman, period, in terms of how we do this."

Chambers said he hopes to reduce his work by half in about four months. "So, Chuck, the one assignment I give on this transition is to get me to half-time sometime in the fall because the hunting season is coming up," Chambers said.

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Robbins responded: "You realize your wife is paying me to keep you busy."

Chambers: "Yes. My wife got Chuck's number so she could text him when it was time for me to go on the road again."

For the next 90 days, Robbins wants to talk with the company's leadership team, employees, customers, partners, shareholders and analysts. Beyond that, Cisco will "focus on aligning our resources," and "clarity and simplification of our messages," Robbins said.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

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