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Surprise! Cisco Names Chuck Robbins as Its New CEO.

The move ends three years of corporate succession chatter.


Networking giant Cisco Systems named Chuck Robbins as its next CEO, replacing its longtime head John Chambers, who will become executive chairman.

The appointment of Robbins came as a surprise to some insiders, as Cisco President Rob Lloyd was considered the leading contender to succeed one of Silicon Valley’s best known executives. Robbins is Cisco’s senior VP of worldwide sales and oversees Cisco’s entire global sales force, responsible for $47 billion in annual sales; he will assume the CEO role on July 26.

The move ends one of the most closely watched corporate successions in recent memory. Chambers has been CEO at Cisco since 1995 and first started talking about plans to retire in 2012.

Robbins is a 17-year veteran who joined Cisco in 1997 after a one-year sales stint at rival Ascend Communications. He has earned a reputation as the quiet right hand to Chambers. As an aggressive salesman, he pushed Cisco’s third-party resellers to compete heavily against price cuts by Hewlett-Packard’s networking division. He once told resellers at a Cisco event that if HP undercut Cisco’s prices, they were to call him personally to get approval for even deeper cuts.

He was among the internal sponsors behind Cisco’s acquisitions of the security company Sourcefire in 2013 for $2.7 billion and Meraki, a maker of networking gear for mid-sized companies, for $1.2 billion in 2012.

The succession comes as Cisco has weathered a years-long series of restructuring moves including several waves of layoffs starting in 2011. The most recent cuts came last year when it said it would fire 6,000 employees, or about 8 percent of its workforce at the time.

Cisco shares rose 14 cents, or less than 1 percent, after the news was announced.

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