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Cisco chief to become chairman

Change may pave way for naming an heir apparent

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Bucking a corporate trend of splitting the chief executive and chairman roles, network equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc. said yesterday longtime CEO John T. Chambers will take on the duties of chairman.

Chambers will succeed John P. Morgridge when he steps aside Nov. 15, the company said. Morgridge, 72, who will become chairman emeritus, said in 2005 he would not stand for reelection this year.

Chambers, 56, will retain the chief executive's post but will relinquish his title as president -- two roles he has held since January 1995. The president's post, which can be viewed as an opening for a potential successor to Chambers, is not being filled .

``The role of president will be reviewed over time," company spokeswoman Penelope Bruce said, declining to elaborate.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company has a succession plan for Chambers and other top executives, but Bruce refused to disclose details.

``We groom multiple candidates for all executive positions," she said.

Chambers recently committed to stay at Cisco for at least three more years, Bruce said.

Morgridge has worked at Cisco for more than 18 years, initially as CEO. He oversaw the company's initial public offering in 1990 and was named chairman in 1995.

Cisco's plan to give Chambers the combined role of chief executive and chairman goes against the tide of other corporations now seeking to split them, said Charles Elson, a director at the University of Delaware Weinberg Center of Corporate Governance.

Though most major companies have historically had one person serving in both roles, regulators and corporate governance analysts in recent years have increasingly pressured corporations to change course, contending the practice concentrated too much power.

Since Chambers became chief executive in 1995, Cisco's annual sales have risen from $1.2 billion to about $24.8 billion in fiscal 2005, and its market value has jumped from $10.4 billion to $121 billion. Chambers joined Cisco in 1991 as senior vice president of global sales and operations.

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