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McDonald's names Easterbrook chief brand officer

McDonald’s Corp. said Tuesday it has promoted company veteran Steve Easterbrook, who currently leads the company's United Kingdom and Northern Europe divisions, to the new post of chief brand officer.

Jill McDonald, current chief marketing officer for Northern Europe, will succeed Easterbrook on Sept. 1 as chief executive of McDonald’s U.K. and president of McDonald’s Northern Europe, the company said.

In his new position, Easterbrook will oversee marketing, menu innovation and consumer insights, as well as corporate social responsibility and restaurant architecture.

“McDonald’s is among the most recognized brands in the world, and that’s an honor we embrace every day,” Easterbrook said. “Given our outstanding global performance, we have a tremendous opportunity to go even further in showing our customers what makes us unique as the leader in our industry.”

Easterbrook will report to McDonald’s president and chief operating officer Don Thompson, who said, “Steve has earned tremendous respect for his inspired leadership and his proven track record of driving the business in the U.K. and Northern Europe.”

Easterbrook joined McDonald’s in his native United Kingdom in 1993 after working as an accountant at Price Waterhouse. He rose from McDonald’s accounting department to chief executive of the U.K. division in April 2006 and added similar responsibilities for Ireland and Scandinavia in January 2007.

In his leadership roles for McDonald’s in Europe, he has encountered challenges similar to ones the brand faces in the United States. In 2006 Easterbrook debated McDonald’s critic Eric Schlosser, author of “Fast Food Nation,” live on the BBC program “Newsnight.” He also has battled the “McJob” criticism of the fast-food industry by showing a commitment to improving employees’ functional literacy and math skills and by introducing a hospitality apprenticeship program at McDonald’s U.K. last year.

“We’re confident that Steve is the right person to step up and help keep our brand relevant and contemporary around the world,” said Jim Skinner, chief executive of McDonald’s Corp. “This new position is a natural evolution of our commitment to our customers and our pledge to be better, not just bigger.”

Easterbrook's replacement, Jill McDonald, will report to Denis Hennequin, president of McDonald’s Europe.

“Jill’s ability to drive innovation in our menu and in the way that we communicate with our customers has been key to our success in the U.K.,” Hennequin said. “With her strong leadership and strategic skills, I’m delighted that she’ll be leading our business in the U.K. and Northern Europe.”

Investor reaction to the executive moves was positive. In a research note, Larry Miller of RBC Capital Markets said the company signaled that McDonald could lead the United Kingdom division ably and that the brand “is tapping Mr. Easterbrook’s penchant for strategic thinking.”

“Mr. Easterbrook will be coordinating the strategic direction of the McDonald’s brand by helping to craft its marketing message, new products and store design,” Miller wrote. “This is essentially what he did in the U.K. that helped turn around that country. McDonald’s wants to tap into his ability to do this on a broader scale.”

Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s Corp. operates or franchises more than 32,000 quick-service restaurants in more than 100 countries.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].

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