Cisco’s Chambers Says Tandberg Acquisition Went According to Plan

Come on, John. Just admit you were temporarily flummoxed. We all make mistakes, take a wrong step from time to time, and you and your boys got knocked back on your heels before regaining your balance on this one.

That was my reaction when I read a few days back that Cisco CEO John Chambers tried to persuade visiting financial analysts that his company’s turbulent $3.4-billion acquisition of videoconferencing-vendor Tandberg went pretty much according to plan.

Really, John? What sort of plan was that? Is that the one that includes needless digressions, unnecessary distractions, high-stakes gamesmanship, and take-it-or-leave-it ultimatums?

If so, then you must have too much time on your hands. Hey, I understand the desire to inject a little excitement into the acquisition process, but the Tandberg takeover was like the trajectory of a runaway roller-coaster. It was, well, a little out of control.

Yet we’re supposed to believe that Cisco foresaw every stage of the process and that the deal went down just like it was drawn up?

I have no idea whether Chambers made these claims with a straight face or with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Nor do I know whether the analysts reacted by rolling their eyes or putting down their notepads, refusing to play along with the charade. Perhaps, as guests, they felt that wasn’t an appropriate response.

Said Chambers of the takeover drama and of Tandberg itself:

“We went into it knowing the exact challenges that we would face. … It unfolded much like we anticipated. . . .

“Their leadership team may be the best total leadership team we’ve had since the acquisition of Crescendo in 1993.”

Crescendo, as industry historians will recall, brought Cisco a wealth of engineering and executive talent, including Mario Mazzola, Luca Cafiero, and Jayshree Ullal.

That just makes me wonder even more about how the tortuous Tandberg deal went down. If Tandberg has such great executive talent, and it was so strategically valuable to Cisco as a linchpin of its video strategy, then why not get the deal done faster, without the diversions and the shuck-and-jive tactics? Time is money, as the lawyers involved in this deal with attest.

As I said at the top of this piece: Come on, John.

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