McDonald’s names first African-American CEO

By Dominic Rushe, The Guardian
Thursday, March 22, 2012 15:41 EDT
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McDonald's in Rome via Flickr
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Jim Skinner, the McDonald’s chief executive who started at the firm as a management trainee in 1971 and went on to become one of its most successful leaders, has announced his retirement.

Skinner, 67, has led the fast-food company for eight years. He will step down on 30 June, McDonald’s said in a statement. Skinner will also retire from the board, where he serves as vice-chairman. He will be replaced by Donald Thompson, 48, another long-term McDonald’s employee and the first African American to lead the company.

Skinner took over at a moment of crisis for McDonald’s. He became the company’s third chief executive in seven months, taking over from Charlie Bell who resigned to focus on his fight against cancer. Bell rose to the top job in April 2004 after then chief executive James Cantalupo died of a heart attack.

After years of rapid expansion the firm had left investors wondering if it had reached its limits. The company had also endured a spate of bad publicity following Morgan Spurlock’s documentary Super Size Me and Eric Schlosser’s bestselling book Fast Food Nation.

Skinner was instrumental in drawing up McDonald’s “Plan to Win”, introduced in 2003, which made the firm focus on revamping stores and menus.

Before the revamp McDonald’s shares hit a low of $13 (£8.22) and now trade for more than $96. Under Skinner’s tenure revenue at McDonald’s has jumped 42%. The company reported revenue of $27bn in 2011 and was one of the few food firms to grow in the recession.

Thompson, a 22-year veteran of the fast-food chain, was president of McDonald’s USA from 2006 to 2010, before becoming chief operating chief.

“I’m honoured by the board’s election,” said Thompson. “Jim has been an outstanding leader, mentor and friend. I’m humbled to take the baton as CEO of McDonald’s.”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2012

(McDonald’s in Rome by Erik Daniel Drost via Flickr)

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