Branding chief Steve Easterbrook will be the next president and CEO of McDonald’s Corp., replacing Don Thompson, who is retiring after 25 years with brand, the company said Wednesday.
The transition will take place March 1. The executive shuffle is part of a number of management changes that McDonald’s announced following one of the most difficult years in the storied company’s history.
Pete Bensen, the company’s senior executive vice president and chief financial officer, has been promoted to a newly created role as chief administrative officer. Bensen will oversee several functions supporting the company’s operations.
Kevin Ozan, currently senior vice president and corporate controller, will succeed Bensen as executive vice president and chief financial officer. Both Bensen and Ozan will take their respective positions March 1.
“McDonald’s is an outstanding company with talented employees and these management changes are aimed at speeding the company’s movement to its next phase of innovation and growth,” Andrew McKenna, non-executive chairman of McDonald’s board of directors, said in a statement. “The board will continue to be actively engaged with the leadership team to drive McDonald’s future success throughout this transition.”
The announcement came just days after McDonald’s reported a 0.9-percent decline in global same-store sales in the fourth quarter of 2014. The company is facing problems throughout the world, including Asia, Russia and Europe, but its problems were most acute at home in the U.S. — where the chain reported a 1.1-percent decline in domestic system sales, the first such decline in at least 30 years.
Easterbrook is senior vice president and chief brand officer for the Oak Brook, Ill.-based company, which operates or franchises the chain's 36,000 locations worldwide. In that role, he has led McDonald’s’ efforts to elevate marketing, advance menu innovation and create an infrastructure for digital initiatives.
He started working at McDonald’s in 1993 as a financial reporting manager in London and has held several, key leadership roles throughout the business, including president of McDonald’s Europe.
“Steve is a strong and experienced executive who successfully led our U.K. and European business units and the board is confident that he can effectively lead the company to improved financial and operational performance,” McKenna said.
McKenna also thanked Thompson for his leadership.
“On behalf of the board I sincerely thank Don for his valuable contributions and outstanding service throughout his career at McDonald’s,” he said. “We will be indebted for his passionate leadership, business acumen, dedication and system knowledge.”
Thompson, also in a statement, said it is difficult to say goodbye “to the McFamily, but there is a time and season for everything. I am truly confident, as I pass the reins over to Steve, that he will continue to move our business and brand forward.”
Said Easterbrook: “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Don and congratulate him on his remarkable career at McDonald’s. I am honored to lead this great brand, and am committed to working with our franchisees, suppliers and employees to drive forward our strategic business priorities to better serve our customers.”
Easterbrook’s task is now to reverse the company’s sales course and oversee a huge host of changes at the business. That includes cuts to the menu, the addition of a customization platform called “Create Your Taste,” and the implementation of more technology such as smartphone apps and touchscreen kiosks.
Thompson took over for the retired Jim Skinner in 2012 and has been with McDonald’s since 1990. Yet Thompson led the chain during a steady slowdown in sales that culminated in the difficult 2014, when the company faced tough competition and complaints that its menu had grown too bloated.
“2014 was a difficult year, during which our performance fell short of expectations,” Thompson said on the company’s earnings call last week. “We’re well aware of the obstacles we face in terms of growing comparable sales and margins amid broad-based challenges.”