McDonald’s has dumped its chief executive Steve Easterbrook after he engaged in a relationship with a colleague, the company announced on Sunday.
Mr Easterbrook, who has been credited with doubling the company’s share price since becoming chief executive in March 2015, “violated company policy and demonstrated poor judgment involving a recent consensual relationship with an employee,” the company said.
The fast-food giant has appointed Chris Kempczinski to the role of chief executive and president. He was previously president of McDonald’s US business.
Mr Easterbrook, who is British, wrote in an email to McDonald’s staff: “I engaged in a recent consensual relationship with an employee, which violated McDonald’s policy. This was a mistake. Given the values of the company, I agree with the board that it is time for me to move on. Beyond this, I hope you can respect my desire to maintain my privacy.”
Mr Kempczinski joined McDonald’s in 2015 to oversee global strategy, business development and innovation. He described Mr Easterbrook as “a patient and helpful mentor” in a memo to staff.
Joe Erlinger, McDonald’s president of international operated markets who joined the company in 2002, will become president of the US business.
McDonald’s has more than 38,000 locations spanning 100 countries, including 14,000 in the US alone.
Mr Easterbrook tried to turn McDonald’s round from a waning fast-food empire to a “modern, progressive burger company”, in his words. As consumers switched to healthier alternatives and sales fell across the industry, he tried to spur growth with initiatives including revitalising the menu and serving breakfast throughout the day.
The group installed electronic screens in its restaurants allowing customers to order and customise their meals. In March, the company acquired artificial intelligence business Dynamic Yield for $300m to further expand its ability to allow restaurant goers to customise their meals.
But last month it reported disappointing sales growth in the US as it faced growing competition from rivals including Burger King, KFC and Dunkin’ Brands, which have all been revamping their menus and offering plant-based alternatives.
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