Cisco's Robbins to Replace Chambers as CEO

John Chambers's 20-year reign as Cisco CEO will soon come to an end, with the networking giant announcing Chuck Robbins as his successor, effective July 26.

Robbins, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s senior vice president of worldwide operations, has been with the company since 1997. When he takes over as CEO in July, he will also join the company's board of directors. Chambers, chief executive of Cisco since 1995, will become executive chairman and continue to serve as chairman of Cisco's board at that time.

This transition has been a long time in the making. Chambers said in 2012 that he would retire in two to four years. He even announced potential successors three years ago with many expecting Cisco President of Development and Sales Rob Lloyd to be the next in line. Lloyd, thought of as Cisco's number-two exec, did many joint news conferences and press Q&As with the CEO over the years. (See John Chambers IDs Potential Successors, Cisco's Chambers Still Coy About Retiring and Is Cisco's Chambers Retiring in the Fall?)

Want to know more about the networking industry? This will be just one of the many topics covered at Light Reading's second Big Telecom Event on June 9-10 in Chicago. Get yourself registered today or get left behind!

But Robbins is no slouch. He's credited with building out Cisco's partner program, now worth more than $40B in revenue to the company each year, and was instrumental in the company’s strategy for the commercial business segment, which now represents 25% of Cisco’s total business. Chambers said in a statement that Robbins is well-positioned to further Cisco's role in the digital transformation.

"Our next CEO needs to thrive in a highly dynamic environment, to be capable of accelerating what is working very well for Cisco, and disrupting what needs to change," Chambers said. "Chuck is unique in his ability to translate vision and strategy into world-class execution, bringing together teams and ecosystems to drive results. Chuck knows every Cisco segment, technology area, and geography, and will move the company forward with the speed required to capitalize on the opportunities in front of us."

Robbins will have big shoes to fill. Chambers has a storied history in the networking business. He has helped focus Cisco and grew it from $1.2 billion in annual revenue to its current run rate of $48 billion. He will continue to support Robbins through his position on the board. Chambers will be 66 in August. (See Cisco Flips on Consumer Business, Cisco Unloads Linksys Unit and Chambers Caught in 90s Deja Vu.)

Light Reading interviewed the dynamic outgoing CEO at Mobile World Congress. Check out the video below for his thoughts on transformation and virtualization. (See Cisco CEO: Get Ready for New Digital World and Think Outside the White Box.)


Cisco's stock was up .13 points, or .45%, to $29.26 after news of the appointment broke on Monday.

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

sarahthomas1011 5/5/2015 | 10:22:05 AM
Re: Changing of the guard And, I think it was such a long-time coming that there wasn't much surprise there. Robbins appointment may have surprised some that though Lloyd would get the position, but they made a pretty good case for why Robbins was the right person for the job.
Mitch Wagner 5/5/2015 | 12:16:32 AM
Changing of the guard I would have expect more movement on the Cisco stock. That suggests that Chambers managed the transition well.

One of the thing Chambers has been best at -- at least recently -- is managing Wall Street expectations.
sarahthomas1011 5/4/2015 | 12:58:21 PM
Security Security is also going to be an increased focus for Cisco under Robbins. He said, "We believe it's a tremendous architectural opportunity for us around security, and you'll see us invest even further." He wouldn't quantify the investment, but said that Cisco is reviewing its investments in the next 90 days, and "it will be a huge area of focus for us."
sarahthomas1011 5/4/2015 | 12:53:48 PM
Re: Cisco Call They were just asked if Lloyd and other internal candidates that were bypassed for CEO had any guarantees they would stay and got a big no comment from Chambers, who cited confidentially. Instead, he talked up Robbins qualifications for the job. 

I don't think either will comment specifically, but Chambers said that Robbins will make the changes he needs to make...
sarahthomas1011 5/4/2015 | 12:51:30 PM
IoT strategy Asked about its IoT (or Internet of Everything, as Cisco calls it) strategy, Robbins said the entire IT enterprise will be a dynamic asset over time. Cisco believes assets from compute to storage to analytics will be needed. He said, "We believe the application layer that will be connected to the value derived from IOT should have the ability to dynamically allocate whatever resources it needs at any given time."
sarahthomas1011 5/4/2015 | 12:44:19 PM
Cisco strategy Robbins is talking now and says of the company's future direction (paraphased): 

We will be looking at those areas that support our current strategy, because I believe our strategy is working and our customers believe our strategy is working. We are going to identify and prioritize areas where we can move faster. We'll make trade offs to optimize where we are. 

So, basically stay the course...at least that's the messaging right now, but we'll see what changes when the transition does.
Chris.Wolff 5/4/2015 | 11:53:57 AM
Cisco Call Please ask what near and medium term leadership changes Chuck plans to make?  Interested in the community's thoughts. 
sarahthomas1011 5/4/2015 | 11:39:14 AM
Cisco boss talk Cisco is holding a call on this new appointment in less than an hour. Any questions, post them here. I will report back about Chambers' retirement part too, which has got to be huge.
Sign In