I had an issue with esx 3.5u2 box, that had wrong vmnic numeration.
In order to correct it edit file /etc/vmware/esx.conf
find entries that describes your vmnics /device/000:xxx:xxx… = “vmnicX”
Rewrite it to normal.
If you had quad port ethernet card and you want to have numbers 4 nics to vmnic 2,3,4,5 and 4 nics to 6,7,8,9 then read the descriction below in that file, where vmnics are described with 3 lines per each. You will see mac addresses for each nic. You will be able to tell that 4 nics have the same xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:yy Xs. So there should be 4 nics that have the same x groups. 40bits of the mac address were the same in my situation, only last 8 bits were different.
After that delete all information for vmnics
3 entries per 1 vmni
Sometimes there can be additional lines. Just remember the number of child[xxxx] which you are deleting.
Reboot esx. It’s all done.
I also saw one document that was describing this situation when this did not help. Maybe it will be useful for somebody: