Arris Steals Top Cisco Talent

Let's say you're looking to fill a top executive position with direct customer-facing responsibilities. Do you snag one from the competition, thus weakening the other guy while strengthening yourself, or would you rather grab someone who has insider experience with your largest customer?

The correct answer is, of course, both. That's what Arris Group (Nasdaq: ARRS  ) just did yesterday when it recruited senior video equipment salesman Don Toft from Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) . Toft had previously spent eight years managing the Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA  ) account for Cisco, and that's exactly what he will do for ARRIS as well. He's expected to help Comcast buy and install "the complete line of Arris solutions," which hardly sounds overly ambitious until you consider how important Comcast is to Arris today.

Comcast accounted for more than 30% of Arris' sales last year. Placing that account under the hand of a proven performer from a major rival is a stroke of genius, and I bet Cisco is kicking itself (metaphorically speaking) for not building non-compete clauses into Toft's contract -- although, as we've seen in different cases in the tech sector, those clauses can be a nightmare to enforce in Cisco's native California.

The hire is particularly interesting given that Arris cites the market for cable-compatible high-speed data routers as a principal growth market. Cisco largely created that particular field and Motorola (NYSE: MOT  ) also jumped into the fray, but Arris is now the market leader. Toft is joining the winning team here.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. The Fool has created a bull call spread position on Cisco Systems. Motley Fool Alpha owns shares of Cisco Systems. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.


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  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2010, at 2:34 PM, commercialrep wrote:

    I am confident you will be able to write many of these stories in the coming year. Being a headhunter the contacts I speak with state they are largely underpaid with little equity available for raises the past 3 years.

    I plan on having a great 2011 because of this.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2010, at 8:04 PM, jarat wrote:

    Don Toft was a salesman for one of the Cisco units that was cited in the November earnings webcast as being a problem area (i.e. cable set top boxes). No doubt that if he was a key member in a winning situation at Cisco, he would not have been let go. This move might have more to do with Cisco's need to clear out non-productivity than with Arris's "stealing top talent".

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