/ 26 November 2004

New big man for Big Mac

McDonald’s has announced another change of leadership after CE Charlie Bell stood down to battle cancer seven months into the job. Bell was diagnosed shortly after being appointed.

The fast food chain named another company veteran, vice-chairman Jim Skinner, as his replacement. Bell (44) had taken the top job in May after the death from an apparent heart attack of former CE Jim Cantalupo, who had taken the job in January 2003 after the retirement of Jack Greenberg. Greenberg had struggled to lift the company from a deep sales slump.

McDonald’s fortunes have been improving under a plan put in place by Cantalupo to slow rapacious expansion and invest in its tired portfolio of existing restaurants. The company has also put more emphasis on improvements to service and introduced healthier items on to its menu.

Skinner is generally regarded by investors as a safe pair of hands who will continue to pursue the turnaround strategy that has proved so successful.

Last month the company reported a 42% increase in third quarter profits of $778-million. It has now enjoyed sales growth in United States restaurants open for more than a year for six successive quarters, after years of sluggish performance.

Skinner (60) joined McDonald’s in 1971 as a trainee restaurant manager.

”In the course of his 33-year career, he has led every restaurant geography of the company — and, like Charlie before him, his McDonald’s roots are on the details and discipline of restaurant operations and customer service,” said chairperson Andrew McKenna.

Bell, an Australian who began his career with McDonald’s at 15 when he worked in one of the company’s restaurants in Sydney, was the first non-American CE. McKenna paid tribute to his contribution. ”Charlie is a remarkable leader and well loved by the McDonald’s family, and we understand and respect his decision.” — Â