Cisco's Chief Strategy Officer Quits

Jeff Baumgartner
News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) CEO John Chambers and COO Gary Moore took to the company blog Tuesday to drop this doozy: Ned Hooper is leaving the company to form an independent investment company "and to pursue his goal to be a principal investor."

Hooper was viewed as one possible candidate to succeed Chambers when he was named chief strategy officer in 2009. (See Hooper's Ascent Continues at Cisco.)

Hooper, a 13-year Cisco vet who's been spending part of his time managing the company's US$2 billion investment portfolio, has been working on his exit plan for months, and apparently will still be in the picture at Cisco, to a degree. "We look forward to partnering with him in his new endeavor," the Cisco execs added.

He'll evidently get a chance to expand on some of the things he's been doing at Cisco, which included leading up some large-scale acquisitions such as Tandberg ASA, WebEx Communications, Pure Digital Technologies (whoops), Starent Networks and, most recently, NDS Ltd. , which is still going through.

Hooper's team now reports to CTO Padmasree Warrior, who rises to becomes chief technology and strategy officer. In that role, she's also tasked with "identifying customer and industry transitions and determining Cisco's strategy to address them." Additionally, Cisco's business group CTOs will report "dotted line" to Warrior.

In another significant move, Pankaj Patel, who has developed Cisco's service provider business, will now head up Cisco's engineering organization.

Chambers and Moore said said the changes come amid a "long-standing belief has always been that companies need to evolve to drive forward and lead through market transitions ... Now the time is right for us to drive the next phase of our organization evolution."

Why this matters
Cisco knows a thing or two about how to weather changes these days. The latest executive shift is just the most recent in a string of moves that have come about since the company initiated a major reorganization. In Warrior, it appears that Cisco has someone groomed and ready to take on the additional and important strategic role. But today's executive shuffle will no doubt raise more questions about who's in line to succeed Chambers, and when.

Also, Hooper's decision to form an investment firm may spark speculation that Cisco could eventually widen its pursuit of "spin-in" companies. (See Cisco's Spin-In Team Might Try SDN and Cisco Outlines an SDN Plan.)

For more

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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