McDonald’s Corporation today announced that that CEO Steve Easterbrook was fired due to a consensual relationship with an employee, the company said Sunday.
McDonald’s forbids managers from having romantic relationships with employees.
The fast food giant said in a news release that Easterbrook, who took over as CEO in March 2015, “violated company policy and demonstrated poor judgment involving a recent consensual relationship with an employee.”
The company did not name the employee. Easterbrook is divorced.
“This was a mistake,” Easterbrook, 52, said in the email to The Wall Street Journal. “Given the values of the company, I agree with the board that it is time for me to move on.”
Details of Easterbrook’s separation package will be released in an SEC filing later this week.
Although McDonald’s claims that Easterbrook’s firing was not the result of poor performances, U.S. franchisees reportedly had pushed back at some of his changes, including required investments in digital-ordering kiosks and new menu items.
Last year, the franchisees started an independent group to challenge some of the changes.
Chris Kempczinski Named president and CEO
Kempczinski, 51, first joined McDonald’s in 2015, overseeing global strategy, business development and innovation. In his most recent role, he was responsible for the business operations of about 14,000 McDonald’s restaurants in the United States.
“Chris takes the reins of this great company at a time of strong, sustained performance, and the Board has every confidence that he is the best leader to set the vision and drive the plans for the Company’s continued success,” said Enrique Hernandez Jr., Chairman of McDonald’s Board of Directors. “He has the right mix of skills and experience to lead us forward having run our U.S. business, where franchisees are delivering strong financial and operational results, and overseen global strategy, business development and innovation.”
He adds, “In particular, Chris was instrumental in the development of the Company’s strategic plan, which has enabled global growth and leadership, and has overseen the most comprehensive transformation of the U.S. business in McDonald’s history,” said Enrique Hernandez Jr., Chairman of McDonald’s Board of Directors.
Kempczinski said, “I’m thrilled to be leading this incredible company. Working alongside our talented team, our Board, our franchisees and suppliers, I am committed to upholding our rich heritage of serving our customers and driving value for our shareholders and other stakeholders. As one of the world’s leading brands, McDonald’s makes a difference in the lives of people every day. We have a responsibility not only to serve great food, but to make it responsibly and to enrich the communities in which we operate. I am energized by this challenge and look forward to guiding McDonald’s continued success.”
Kempczinski told The Wall Street Journal on Sunday that he plans to keep Easterbrook’s focus on technology.
“There isn’t going to be some radical, strategic shift. The plan is working,” Kempczinski.
Joe Erlinger replaces Kempczinski as President
McDonald’s also named Joe Erlinger to replace Kempczinski as president of McDonald’s USA. Erlinger, who will report to Kempczinski, had been president of International Operated Markets.
In his new role, Erlinger will be responsible for the business operations of approximately 14,000 McDonald’s restaurants in the United States, reporting to Kempczinski.
“Joe is a respected leader who is returning to the U.S. after working around the world for McDonald’s,” said Kempczinski. “He has a proven track record of driving strong results through collaboration with franchisees and a relentless focus on the customer. I am proud and excited that one of my first moves as CEO is to announce his appointment, and am confident in all he will bring to our U.S. business.”
“Our U.S. business is the heartbeat of McDonald’s,” said Erlinger. “I look forward to working with our franchisees to build upon the transformational progress in our largest market. With a talented team that is committed to running great restaurants, we have tremendous momentum to deliver on our brand promise to all of our customers.”
Erlinger first joined McDonald’s in 2002.