On the Margin
Quietly, outsiders take key roles at McDonald’s

Quietly, outsiders take key roles at McDonald’s

This post is part of the On the Margin blog.

McDonald’s Corp. has long been known for its ability to generate top talent. It’s been a common story in Oak Brook, Ill., that people would start out flipping burgers and end up flipping the light switch in their C-suite office.

But when the company began struggling four years ago and couldn’t emerge from its doldrums the way it was accustomed to, that hire-from-within strategy quickly looked like insularity.

And so many investors and observers wanted the company to appoint an outsider as its CEO when the temperature on Don Thompson’s seat warmed. Instead, the company appointed Steve Easterbrook, a longtime McDonald’s executive who returned to the chain after spending a couple of years elsewhere.

More recently, however, those voices clamoring for additional outside influence on the McDonald’s executive ranks have received their wish. Several of the company’s new executives are relative newcomers. Some don’t even have restaurant backgrounds.

Consider:

Robert Gibbs, chief communications officer, McDonald's. Photo: McDonald's.

, chief communications officer. He was hired last year. He spent years working in politics — including press secretary for President Barack Obama during his first two years in office.

Chris Kempczinski, who this week was named the new chief of McDonald’s U.S. operations. Kempczinski came to McDonald’s just last year from Kraft Heinz. He’s also worked with PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble. Kempczinski is taking over for Mike Andres, who is a 30-year company veteran and has an extensive operational background, having started out managing his family’s McDonald’s location.

Silvia Lagnado, who was hired last year to be the company’s global chief marketing officer. She had worked with Bacardi Limited and spent 20 years at Unilever.

Chris Kempczinski, chief of U.S. operations, McDonald's. Photo: McDonald's.

, who this week was named to the role being vacated by Kempczinski — senior vice president of corporate strategy and business development. She comes to the company from Boston Consulting Group, where she was a partner.

Meanwhile, in addition to Andres, another longtime executive is leaving McDonald’s — Pete Bensen, the company’s chief administrative officer. Much of his role will be filled by Doug Goare, himself a company veteran who is president of McDonald's International Lead Markets.

To be sure, plenty of the executives remaining can count their company experience in decades, not years.

In addition, it’s hardly surprising to see management changes following a reshuffle at the top.

Silvia Lagnado, senior vice president of corporate strategy and business development, McDonald's. Photo: McDonald's.

Yet the influx of so many outsiders to McDonald’s represents a major shift to the burger chain, which is even abandoning its old headquarters in Oak Brook to move to downtown Chicago.

The promotion of Kempczinski is particularly notable because he has little experience in the industry before coming to McDonald’s a year ago, and will now lead the biggest market of the world’s largest restaurant chain. He is a different executive from Andres, a career operator.

As it is, McDonald's has made numerous changes over the past two years as it sought to reverse a three-year sales slump. That includes killing some heretofore sacred cows, including making breakfast items available all day.

The addition of so many outsiders only promises more change in the coming months. And many of these changes could make for a radically different Golden Arches.

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

TAGS: Finance
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