McDonald’s CEO Steps Down After String of Spectacular Failures

Thompson couldn’t turn it around.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

McDonald’s President and CEO Don Thompson, who spent nearly 25 years at the company, who was elevated to french-fry commander-in-chief in July 2012 when share prices were high and sales were strong, who brought with him a strong track record in U.S. operations but limited experience overseas, who has led McDonald’s to five straight quarters of decline and its worst monthly sales in more than a decade, who presided while the chain suffered a tainted meat scandal in China, who similarly oversaw one public relations disaster after another with striking fast-food workers, who suffered a potentially disastrous employment ruling at the hands of the National Labor Relations Board, who presumably OK’d the terrifying makeover of Ronald McDonald, who also presumably OK’d the company’s equally questionable transparency campaign with TV personality Grant Imahara, is stepping down effective March 1, McDonald’s announced on Wednesday.

Thompson will be replaced in both his roles by Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s former senior executive vice president and chief brand officer. Easterbrook will be charged with helping turn around a fast-food brand that has been beleaguered by consumer skepticism and negative imagery, tumbling revenue, and global declines in foot traffic. He will also have to fend off the red-hot fast-casual sector and chains like Five Guys and Panera and Chipotle (especially Chipotle) that are rapidly consuming the market share of their older fast-food predecessors. All this, perhaps, under the auspices of McDonald’s new and tragically modified slogan “Lovin’ Beats Hatin.’ ”

In short, not a great run for Thompson. But hey—at least he wasn’t the one who decided to sell the McDonald’s stake in Chipotle.