Duke's PR machine at work shining Sunday's Commencement speaker

The Chronicle calls John Chambers "one of America's most successful" CEO's. And the chief spokesperson for the Brodhead Administration says he "built one of the most successful companies in the world... he is a leader... in solving problems."

✔✔✔ Wait a second Mr Schoenfeld. I hate to rain on your PR parade about Chambers being the most successful businessman since Noah managed to overfill the berths on his Ark, but Cisco itself has impeached your words.

The company has just announced it is cutting $1 billion from its annual expenditures because of lagging sales and sagging profits -- and Wall Street analysts expect a bloodbath for 4,000 employees plus at least that many independent contractors. That's not a success story.

In fact Chambers has taken personal responsibility for the failure of his four year plan for the company. He thus admits it's not a success story.

We do not know where these cuts will take place -- but the Cisco campus at the Research Triangle Park is its second biggest (after headquarters in California), with 4,000 out of Cisco's 73,000 employees.

Chambers has been chief executive for 16 years. Let us calm down here on the Duke campus about the reappearance of our "alum" -- he went through one year at Duke -- and look at the stock charts. For the past 13 years, the stock has traded in a narrow range. Today you can buy a share for the same price you would have paid in 1998.

Some quotes from today's Reuters story: "Cisco cannot point to bad market conditions or a weak economy as excuses for wielding the ax to its payroll. Instead, Chambers last month took responsibility for mistakes in managing Cisco, saying it needs to focus on its core businesses and be more disciplined about expanding into new areas....

"Cisco's planned job cuts stand out at a time when most other U.S. technology companies have started to add jobs after cutbacks during the recession. HP said last week that it was hiring more people....."

Chambers is a perennial on the Commencement circuit. It is quite entertaining to watch him light up, to walk from the podium through the graduates, to wave his arms and raise them like an evangelist.

He is mercifully brief -- 13 minutes in one speech that Fact Checker caught on the internet -- but one of the most successful businessmen he is not.

Thank you for reading Fact Checker. On duty all summer. http://dukefactchecker.blogspot.com/