Cisco lost one of its rising stars when Mike Volpi, head of the networking company’s telecommunications business, resigned on Thursday, citing personal reasons.
Mr Volpi, 40, had been considered a potential successor to John Chambers, Cisco’s longtime chief executive.
The departure, which was unexpected, came days after Cisco reported the latest in a series of strong quarters. Cisco said Mr Volpi’s decision to leave was strictly a personal one.
Mr Volpi could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Along with Mr Chambers and Charlie Giancarlo, Cisco’s chief development officer and another potential candidate for chief executive, Mr Volpi had helped mastermind Cisco’s continuing transformation from an infrastructure company into a service provider capable of managing data inside businesses and the home.
In his most recent role, Mr Volpi had been at the forefront of Cisco’s efforts to boost sales of networking equipment to cable companies, telecoms groups and others grappling with the surge in demand for bandwidth-hogging data services, such as online video.
Demand for such services has helped to restore Cisco’s growth rate in recent quarters after a slump following the dotcom bust.
During his 13 years at the company, Mr Volpi held a variety of other posts, including a stint as head of strategy, during which he masterminded the acquisitions of more than 70 companies.
He was also head of Cisco’s Linksys consumer wireless router group and led Scientific Atlanta after Cisco bought the maker of set-top cable boxes for $6.9bn in 2005 – an acquisition that signalled Cisco’s entry into the battle for the digital home.
On Tuesday, Cisco reported a 41 per cent jump in net profits, fuelled by strong sales and higher profit margins.
Cisco’s shares fell briefly on Thursday before recovering to trade 0.1 per cent higher at $28.18.
The shares had gained more than 50 per cent over the past six months.
Cisco said Mr Volpi would be replaced by the two-man team of Pankaj Patel and Tony Bates, who had helped Mr Volpi run Cisco’s provider business.
The pair will report to Mr Giancarlo.