Have We Just Met the Next Cisco CEO?

Moore Chambers and Lloyd

Cisco CEO John Chambers (center) flanked by top lieutenants Gary Moore (left) and Rob Lloyd (right)

Ever since John Chambers announced last September that he was considering stepping aside in two to four years, the smart money for a successor has favored an insider – a member of Chambers’ trusted inner circle. To date, the CEO hasn’t said much about his replacement, beyond mentioning a few qualified and capable candidates on the short list.

At this week’s 2013 Partner Summit in Boston, however, the agenda and the body language indicate the choice for Cisco’s next CEO could be down to just two candidates. While nearly every senior executive is in town for the networking vendor’s annual channel fete, Chambers met with members of the media for a free-wheeling Q&A session flanked only by Development and Sales President Robert Lloyd and President and Chief Operating Officer Gary B. Moore.

Both early favorites among speculating industry insiders, neither Lloyd nor Moore would be a particularly surprising choice to take charge when Chambers steps down.

Lloyd is an 18-year Cisco veteran with a strong executive background and a wealth of international experience.  Known for using hockey and fist-fight metaphors to urge partners to be aggressive in the market, Lloyd is a staunch supporter of Cisco’s channel resellers and integrators and he frequently echoes Chambers’ own commitment to channel development and operations.

Already Cisco’s second in command, Moore has prior experience as a chief executive, having served as CEO of network consulting company Netigy before coming to Cisco in 2001. Prior to that, Moore held a number of executive positions at Electronic Data Systems Corp., experience that makes him a determined and eloquent advocate for high-value technology and professional services.

As he has in previous press meetings, Chambers deflected direct questions about the search for his successor. But perhaps the biggest tip off that reporters were in the presence of the next Cisco CEO came when he was asked about a data point in an earlier keynote presentation referencing the impact technology has had on health care and human longevity. According to the Cisco stat, the first person to live to age 300 has already been born.

So, a reporter asked, would Chambers himself like to live to age 300?

The son of two West Virginia doctors didn’t hesitate.

“Sure, of course,” the CEO replied. “As long as I can play golf.”

Then he slapped both  Lloyd and Moore on the back simultaneously, adding, “And I can watch these guys run the company.”