Cisco Chief Strategy Officer Steps Down, Replaced by Padmasree Warrior

by Jordan Richardson on June 27, 2012

Cisco System Inc.’s chief strategy officer, Ned Hooper, has stepped down from his position to head an investment fund. His responsibilities will be taken over by chief technology officer (CTO) Padmasree Warrior.

It was once considered that Hooper would be on the list of possible successors to CEO John Chambers’ post.

Thanks to an upswing in Cisco’s fortunes, however, Chambers’ exit no longer seems as imminent and talk of replacing the boss has died down.

Hooper leaves behind a 13 year career at Cisco. Of the highlights of his career, he oversaw the $4.3 billion deal for Norwegian video conferencing firm Tandberg and the $5 billion acquisition of pay TV smartcard makers NDS. The latter deal has yet to close.

It is possible that Hooper’s departure ironically has something to do with talk of Chambers’ resignation dying down, as the former chief strategy officer’s designs on the CEO post may have caused him to run out of patience and seek opportunities elsewhere. Cisco has, after all, reported three straight solid quarters.

A number of executives expected to replace Chambers eventually ran out of patience and left, lending credence to the theory backing Hooper’s departure. Don Listwin was one executive considered in line for Chambers’ post, but he quit Cisco in 2000 to become the CEO of Analyst buzz at the time was that Listwin wasn’t prepared to wait it out for Chambers to depart.

Mike Volpi and William Nuti also followed similar paths.

Chambers, however, seems fixed and may not be going anywhere for a while. He’ll turn 63 in August and has led Cisco since 1995. He headed a major reorganization last year and cut 15 percent of the company’s workforce.

Warrior, who now holds the post vacated by Hooper, joined Cisco in 2007 and holds 23 years of experience at Motorola, but she’s not really considered CEO material by most observers. That means that her focus on the task at hand – and at her still-held CTO position – will serve her and the company nicely.

“This allows her to focus on what she does well,” Gartner analyst Andrew Butler said. “Like (CEO) Chambers, Warrior is great on stage, she is well regarded within the company and is seen as a steady hand on the wheel.”

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