(Reuters) - Networking equipment company Cisco Systems is expanding the roles of two executives it has identified as possible successors to long-serving Chief Executive John Chambers.
Chambers, who took the helm at Cisco in 1995 and turned the small company into a multi-billion dollar operation, has said he aims to step down in two to four years.
Cisco appears to be taking a cue from other large U.S. firms like media giant Disney that are seeking a smooth CEO transition by tapping possible heirs years in advance.
Cisco said on Thursday that Chief Operating Officer Gary Moore, 63, will also assume the role of president overseeing end-to-end operations and aligning all businesses with Cisco's long-term strategy. Moore was named Cisco's COO in February 2011.
Rob Lloyd, 56, who has led the company's global operations since April 2009, will assume responsibility for Cisco's development and sales units, the company said.
"You're seeing both of those leaders taking a major step forward in terms of their responsibilities and expectations and you will see me staying focused on strategy," Chambers told Reuters on Thursday.
"Our goal is to make this transition not just at my level very smooth. The way you do that is to move people around functionally and to give them more responsibility and then see how they do," Chambers said.
Chambers is one of the longest serving CEO's in the tech industry and the question of who will succeed him has come up in the past, especially when executives considered potential heirs left Cisco.
Analyst Zeus Kerravala of ZKresearch said both Lloyd and Moore were well respected.
"Gary Moore is an excellent operational person...and Cisco runs more efficiently than before he took on the role while Rob Lloyd has a very good feel for how Cisco operates globally," Kerravala said.
He added that Moore may have somewhat of an advantage because he spent a lot of time with Cisco's customer advocacy group. "That experience will serve him well," Kerravala said.
Last year speculation over Chambers swirled after he famously admitted Cisco had lost its way and kicked off a restructuring program.
"I am now asking Gary and Rob to do what I spend a lot of my time on which is taking key emerging countries and building a lasting relationship at all levels at the government leaders, business leaders, corporate social responsibility, etc," Chambers said.
"Last week Gary was in Turkey and Rob was in Brazil, no accident there," Chambers quipped.
(Reporting By Nicola Leske; editing by Peter Lauria and Andrew Hay)