Chambers to step down from chairman post, ends chapter in Cisco’s history

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John Chambers may have been the synonymous figure at Cisco, leading the company as its CEO and then as executive chairman. All of that will come to an end when he steps down from his position in December when his term expires.

John Chambers may have been the synonymous figure at Cisco, leading the company as its CEO and then as executive chairman. All of that will come to an end when he steps down from his position in December when his term expires.

Cisco’s CEO Chuck Robbins will then take the reins of chairman. Chambers will be given the honorary title of Chairman Emeritus.

A 26-year company veteran, Chambers joined Cisco in 1991 as head of sales. In 1995, he became CEO and served in that position until the end of July 2015.

RELATED: Cisco taps Robbins to take over CEO reins from Chambers

Chambers effectiveness as CEO was clearly seen in his ability to ramp up and grow the routing vendor’s revenues. Over his 24-year period as CEO, Cisco’s annual revenues went from $1.2 billion to nearly $50 billion. When Chambers became executive chairman in 2015, Robbins took over the reins as CEO.

Chuck Robbins speaks at a Cisco event in this screencap.
Chuck Robbins

"John's influence on the industry is immense and he built Cisco around a culture of integrity and innovation that will continue to serve our employees, partners and customers for decades to come,” said Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco, in a release.

While he was CEO Chambers did have to guide the company through some rough waters. In August 2014, Cisco company slashed 6,000 employees from its rolls after laying off 4,000 in August 2013. However, the largest job cut effort came in 2011 when it axed 6,500 employees, or 9% of its workforce.

Robbins will also continue to face challenges as CEO and Chairman of Cisco, particularly as the company pivots from being a hardware to a software-centric vendor. This transition is being driven by Cisco’s service provider customers such as AT&T and Verizon, two telcos that are transforming more functions of their networks to software.

However, Cisco continues to see near-term struggles with being a slower service provider and switching spending. In its fiscal fourth quarter, Cisco generated 31% of its total revenue from recurring offers, up almost four points from a year ago. Revenue from subscriptions increased 18% and now represents over 50% of the vendor’s software revenue.

Robbins has touted patience, telling investors during its latest earnings call that “we're working on a multiyear transition.”