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John Chambers had a legendary tenure as chief executive of networking giant Cisco, growing it to be (for a moment) the world's most valuable company and steering it through a number of ups and downs. It's no surprise that his successor, Chuck Robbins, has found some growing pains.
Now Recode reports that those pains are a little more public: Four of the company's top R&D executives have resigned, just a week after being moved to advisory roles. Those four — Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain, Luca Cafiero, and Soni Jiandani — had run Cisco's aggressive investment and acquisition strategy, in which Cisco would be the sole investor in an early-stage startup, and would then acquire the most promising.
Recode reported that the company spent $2 billion on that strategy over the past two decades.
Just a year ago, Cisco strongly denied that the four would leave the company to Network World, in a rather unusually strongly worded statement:
This is absolutely untrue. This kind of unsubstantiated rumor is a very injurious to Cisco. It erodes confidence at every level with our key stakeholders: customers, investors, partners, etc
That denial underscores just how important the quartet was to the company — and how bad the frictions must have been.