Data Center Infrastructure

Cisco's Chambers Still Coy About Retiring

Three years after Cisco CEO John Chambers said he's looking to retire, he remains coy about when he's actually going to do it.

Goldman Sachs financial analyst Simona Jankowski teed up the retirement question in Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s quarterly earnings call Wednesday, in which the networking giant reported its second consecutive quarter of growth after multiple quarters of declining revenue. (See Cisco Sees Strong Quarter Despite Carrier Weakness.)

"You obviously had a good quarter," Jankowski said. But Chambers's "tone is even more bullish than the numbers would suggest."

Chambers said business is good across the board (with the exception of service provider sales, which were down 1%) and customers are enthusiastic.

"Mel told me not to be too enthusiastic on the call," Chambers said, referring to Melissa Selcher, Cisco vice president, analyst and investor relations. "I went out and ran four miles this morning. I had my best time in the last year. Lifted weights successfully. And I'm sorry Mel -- I'm full of energy. It's exciting what's in front of us."

That set up the question about Chambers's retirement.

Chambers, now 65, said in 2012 he'd retire in two to four years, and reports swirled in the spring that his retirement was imminent. (Obviously, that didn't happen.) (See Is Cisco's Chambers Retiring in the Fall?)

Following Jankowski's question, JP Morgan financial analyst Rod Hall asked Chambers to update retirement plans.

Chambers declined. "The next time you hear, Rod, about the change will be when we announce it. And that hasn't changed overall," Chambers said. "We'll make this a non-issue as we make the transition."

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And then Chambers dropped to the floor and snapped out a series of one-arm push-ups.

OK, we're making that last part up. On the other hand, we weren't there -- we were just listening in on the earnings call -- so we can't swear that it didn't happen.

Chambers' coyness was like this:

— 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]

R Clark 2/15/2015 | 6:28:14 AM
Re: My prediction No, there are no details on Ren's advice to Chambers, or even what the context was.  Talk about the odd couple - a case of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer.

The 'China rising' remark was just his way of saying China will grow much bigger than everyone else.  Which is what most Chinese like to believe these days.





Mitch Wagner 2/13/2015 | 10:25:24 AM
Re: My prediction R Clark  - Excellent article -- but what was Ren's advice about picking a successor? Other than don't make it a family member -- not an issue in Chambers' case -- or don't retire at all, which seems to be Ren's plan. 

Also, what does he mean by China rising first? It seems to me that China rose first but that was centuries ago, then Europe rose, then the US, and now China is rising again (but Europe and the US are by no means down). What does Ren mean?
krishna vamshi 2/13/2015 | 8:13:44 AM
Re: Who's next? I think yes...
R Clark 2/13/2015 | 4:59:45 AM
Re: My prediction I wonder if he's still taking Ren Zhengfei's advice.


Mitch Wagner 2/12/2015 | 3:39:47 PM
My prediction I expect Chambes wants to go out on a high note. He wants to see the transformation of the company to an IT vendor that offers business results for the IoE.

He also wants to see the company's run of bad earnings decisively reversed. 

However, the clock is ticking. He's a robust 65-year-old. But he's still 65 years old. I don't see him as retiring to play golf. I think he wants to launch a second career. 

Therefore, I see him announcing his retirement at the end of the current -- and likely successful -- fiscal year. We can expect the announcement at a quarterly earnings' call. And Cisco has said he'll give at leat six months notice. So expect an announcement at the annual earnings call in August, effective a year from now -- Feb. 2016. Chambers will announce a successor in August and immediately begin the transition to make his actual departure a non-event. 

As to what Chambers will do next: My crystal ball says politics. Look for a gubernatorial run in California, maybe even a White House bid, though he'll be over 70 for the 2016 election, older than Hillary Clinton is today and she is facing age as an issue. 

The preceding is entirely speculation. I have no information on this whatsoever. 
Mitch Wagner 2/12/2015 | 3:32:25 PM
Re: Who's next? As far as I know, the short list is still the same. I haven't looked into it in a while though. 
jasonmeyers 2/12/2015 | 9:01:40 AM
Who's next? Is the short list of his possible replacements (you last reported here, I think) still the same, or has that changed? Is Padmasree Warrior a contender for the CEO job? 
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