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Cisco exec leaves amid tough times

A top executive at Cisco Systems once considered heir apparent to Chief Executive John Chambers has quit his post to join Symbol Technologies.

A top executive at Cisco Systems once considered heir apparent to Chief Executive John Chambers has quit his post to join Symbol Technologies, the company said Tuesday.

William Nuti, 38, will join Symbol as president and chief operating officer. Nuti spent 10 years at Cisco, where he was most recently head of U.S. sales operations and voice and data telecommunication services.

Cisco, the leading maker of equipment that directs Internet traffic, has not yet named a replacement for Nuti, spokeswoman Robyn Jenkins said. Employees in his divisions will report to Rick Justice, senior vice president of worldwide sales operations, to whom Nuti reported.

Lehman Brothers analyst Tim Luke said Nuti's exit could be seen as bad news for Cisco.

"We view the departure of Nuti as a setback for the networking giant," Luke said in a research note. "In an uncertain environment, Nuti was generally viewed by investors as a seasoned and proven leader for Cisco. Nuti had even been viewed by investors as a possible heir apparent to CEO John Chambers."

Nuti's departure comes at a difficult time for the networking equipment company, as it tries to navigate the virtual collapse of the telecommunications industry while working to maintain its leadership position and talent, said Bill Lesieur, an analyst at Technology Business Research.

"The telecom market collapse is making executives impatient for new opportunities," Lesieur said. "Nuti's resignation is representative of the telecom industry collapse that is delaying executive growth opportunities and causing many people to re-think their future careers."

Nuti said Cisco's problems did not shape his decision.

"The opportunity here is incredible in terms of growth," he said. "It was not an issue of me being unhappy at Cisco, nor the relationship with John (Chambers) and myself, nor (Cisco's) prospects for the future."

Nuti will replace Richard Bravman, a 23-year veteran of the Holtsville, N.Y., company, who has been promoted to chief executive. Nuti lives in New York, so his new job is closer to home than Cisco's San Jose, Calif., headquarters.

Reuters contributed to this report.