Tech Industry

Cisco's John Chambers eyes retirement, successor

The 63-year-old CEO has been running the networking equipment giant since 1995 and now sees his retirement coming in the next two to four years.

Cisco CEO John Chambers during his keynote speech at CES 2009.
Sarah Tewes/CNET

John Chambers, who has served as Cisco Systems' CEO longer than many of today's hottest companies have been in existence, is hinting that his retirement may not be far off.

The 63-year-old Chambers has been running the networking equipment giant since 1995 and recently told Bloomberg that he envisions a scenario in which he could retire as chief executive in the next two to four years to assume the role of chairman. He also offered insight into who might be tapped to succeed him when that time comes, saying there are as many as 10 candidates on a list that directors review on a regular basis.

"You begin to look at how these transitions occur, and the job of the board and myself is to make sure this next one goes really smooth," Chambers said. "Assuming the board wants me to, and assuming the shareholders do, I'll stay on as chairman after that."

Among the possible successors -- apparently all in-house candidates -- are Gary Moore, chief operating officer, Robert Lloyd, executive vice president of worldwide operations, Chuck Robbins, senior vice president of the Americas, and Edzard Overbeek, senior vice president of global services.

While Cisco dominates in the IP routing market, the San Jose, Calif.-based company has had poor luck trying to move into the consumer space, such as the Flip camcorder, which it ultimately killed to refocus its attention on its bread-and-butter networking business.

And as Cisco moved into new markets, sales in its core businesses slowed and it lost market share to rivals such as Hewlett-Packard and Chinese manufacturers such as Huawei. To make itself more competitive, the company announced plans in July 2011 to cut about 14 percent of its global workforce, or about 11,500 employees.

Cisco turned in a better-than-expected fourth quarter last month, reporting earnings of $1.9 billion, or 36 cents a share, on revenue of $11.7 billion, up 4 percent from a year ago.