Cisco CEO John Chambers was a true Silicon Valley Goliath during the dot-com happy 1990’s. It may be surprising to some that he’s still at the helm. Count Lee Munson, chief investment officer at Portfolio LLC among them.
Chambers was recently slapped on the wrist by Cisco’s board after not hitting sales and profit goals. That slap came in the form of a pay cut to the tune of about $5 million.
The fact that Chambers is still sitting in the C-suite at Cisco in the first place is a testament to the fact that “we still have problems in Silicon Valley. We still have issues with shareholders rights. We saw it with Alibaba, we’re seeing with Google and this is just another systemic issue,” Munson says, adding, “you can’t get these people out.”
That’s not to say that any Silicon Valley stalwart should be shown the door. “To say that shareholders are screwed is an understatement,” Munson contends. “Chambers is no Bezos. There’s some guys in Silicon Valley who stayed there from the beginning, they’ve innovated, they’ve done a lot of things to create shareholder value. But then you have this old guard. We always like to talk about shareholder rights. That’s not really something that’s discussed in Silicon Valley.”
Regardless of investor gripes this remains the world in the murky valley south of San Francisco. “I don’t understand why there’s no accountability and I think that you gotta be very careful to say ‘is this legacy guy a person who’s gonna have an heir apparent?’”
It’s for this reason that Munson is not in favor of getting long these kinds of stocks. He calls Cisco in particular “It’s a trading stock...it’s just something you have fun with. It’s been like that for 15 years.” That won’t change whenever Chambers finally relinquishes control Munson says.