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Is Cisco's 16-year CEO Chambers ready to go?

Secret internal wars of succession said to be underway

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Rumours that Cisco CEO and chairman John Chambers may be considering his resignation have gathered pace. Chambers has spent 16 years at the head of the firm.

While he is not about to be ousted in a blaze of ignominy like some other tech CEO departures we could mention, the question of who Chambers' likely heir may be has started to come up by the water-coolers, hinting that his departure is imminent.

"The internal people at Cisco are having a massive war right now about potential succession," a source close to the company told Reuters. "There is real tension about succession. Everybody knows it's coming now."

Successive quarters of weak growth and poor outlook have already prompted a number of changes at Cisco, including an announcement in May of a total re-organisation of the company, followed by large swathes of job cuts across the business.

The shake-up followed the loss of a number of Cisco's executives, some of whom would have been seen as potential successors to Chambers. Most recently, the Tony Bates, senior VP and GM of enterprise, commercial and small business, left to become CEO of Skype.

That thinning out on top has led to speculation that the next CEO of Cisco will come from outside the company: former HP chief executive Mark Hurd and Juniper Networks CEO Kevin Johnson have been suggested by some insiders.

Cisco could also welcome back some of its erstwhile execs, such as Charles Giancarlo, who left at the end of 2007 despite being hotly tipped to take up the reins after Chambers, or Mike Volpi, who departed for a CEO role at Joost, the internet video company, before heading off to venture firm Index Ventures.

Chambers will be onstage in the US later today addressing Cisco's annual financial analyst conference, but a timeframe of 12 to 18 months is expected before any exit move, with the source saying that Chambers would be looking for at least one strong quarter before he goes. ®

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