Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins.
Courtesy of Cisco

Cisco executive chairman John Chambers reports to CEO Chuck Robbins, his former underling. But who four company superstars report to remains unclear.

By Barb Darrow
September 2, 2015

Cisco chief executive Chuck Robbins is the guy running Cisco, not his predecessor and the company’s executive chairman John Chambers, according to a spokesman. Chambers, in fact, now reports to Robbins which is weird considering that Chambers heads up the Cisco board that Robbins reports to.

Got it? Me neither. On Monday, NetworkWorld reported that four key Cisco CSCO engineers–Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain, Luca Cafiero and Soni Jiandani—continued to report to Chambers after he vacated CEO job on July 26 after 20 years at the helm.

Known collectively as MPLS, these executives have played key roles in Cisco’s business and acquisition strategy and have been richly rewarded for it.

Mazzola, Jain, and Cafiero co-founded Insieme, a software-defined network company that was a Cisco “spin-in.” That means it was a startup that Cisco invested in in 2012 with the option to acquire. Two years later Cisco bought Insieme for $863 million. The fourth executive, Jiandani, was a Cisco veteran who joined Insieme and came back to Cisco via that acquisition.

The four engineers have held exalted status at Cisco for years, and the implication of the NetworkWorld story is that they still get special treatment since it is highly unusual for operational executives to report to a chairman and not to the CEO.

At Oracle ORCL , executive chairman Larry Ellison still has direct reports on the technology side, however he also retained the CTO title so that’s a different situation than what is apparently happening at Cisco.

The Cisco spokesman said that Chambers himself and the company’s top techies including Pankaj Patel executive vice president and chief development officer, report to Robbins.

“The key thing to understand is that as our CEO, Chuck sets the strategy and makes the operating decision for the company. This is something that John has stated numerous times publicly,” he said.

But, asked specifically about MPLS, the spokesman said the company does not provide “public updates on the reporting lines of individual employees.”

Hmmm.

For more on Cisco’s new CEO check out this video.

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