SAN JOSE, CA — Charleston native and WVU College of Law graduate John Chambers will transition into a new role with computer networking giant Cisco this summer. The company announced Monday Chambers will move from Cisco’s chief executive officer to executive chairman of the Cisco board of directors.
Chambers, 65, who has been the internationally-known company’s leader since 1995, will be replaced by Chuck Robbins beginning July 26.
“This is the perfect time for Chuck Robbins to become Cisco’s next Chief Executive Officer. We’ve selected a very strong leader at a time when Cisco is in a very strong position,” Chambers said in a news release. “Today’s pace of change is exponential. Every company, city and country is becoming digital, navigating disruptive markets, and Cisco’s role in the digital transformation has never been more important. Our next CEO needs to thrive in a highly dynamic environment, to be capable of accelerating what is working very well for Cisco, and disrupting what needs to change.”
Chambers said he expects his new role with the company to evolve over the next few years.
“I think initially focusing more externally,” he said. “Focusing about country transformations, focusing about some of the strategic partnerships that are so important to us, taking what Chuck wants to do from a strategy and business perspective and working some of those relationships.”
Chambers said his number one takeaway from 20 years as CEO is how the internet and Cisco’s role in that has changed the world.
“We set a goal to change the way the world works, lives, learns and plays and perhaps almost as much as any company, especially from the business side, we’ve done that,” Chambers said.
Chambers originally joined Cisco in 1991 as head of of sales. The company’s annual revenue was $1.2 billion when he became CEO and he took it to its current $48 billion. Chambers credited the company’s employees, its partners and shareholders.
“I would argue that we’ve reinvented ourselves constantly. We were willing to disrupt in ways that others are not and we’ve continuously led in terms of number-one or number-two in every product area that we went into and that’s pretty exciting,” he said.
The change at Cisco has been discussed in business circles for months. Reports indicate the company has grown slower than its competitors and there have been problems in China. Chambers maintained Monday the company has faced its challenges and been better for it.
“Most companies, when you get knocked down, have trouble getting back up and what we want to understand is we got back up quicker than almost anybody else. And we come back each time stronger than when we went into the slowdown and that I’m very proud of,” Chambers said.
Cisco’s shares initially fell on Wall Street Monday following the announcement.
Chambers was born in Cleveland but grew up in Charleston’s Kanawha City community. He earned an undergraduate business degree from WVU followed by a law degree from WVU’s College of Law. His salary in 2013 was approximately $21 million.