McDonald's has fired CEO Steve Easterbrook for violating company policy by having a relationship with an unidentified employee, the company said.
The US fast-food giant stated Steve Easterbrook "demonstrated poor judgment", as the company prohibits senior management from having relationships with other workers, whether they are under their direct supervision or not. McDonald's voted to approve Easterbrook's departure after conducting a thorough analysis of the situation.
Meanwhile, the board appointed Chris Kempczinski, who until now headed McDonald's USA as the new president and CEO.
Easterbrook called his recent relationship with an employee "a mistake" in an email to McDonald's employees.
"Given the values of the company, I agree with the board that it is time for me to move on," he wrote.
Easterbrook has had a long career at McDonald's. Before becoming CEO, he worked as head of the company's UK business, which he helped return to growth by modernizing its restaurants and revamping the menu. Within months of becoming CEO, he brought about several changes, including committing to switch to cage-free eggs, antibiotic-free chicken and hormone-free milk; raising workers' pay above minimum wage and giving different geographic markets more control over the menu.
The ouster of Easterbrook, who had led McDonald's since 2015, is among the most significant in corporate America in the past several years over relationships deemed inappropriate. More so, it comes at a time when McDonald's is dealing with challenges the entire food industry is facing such as consumers moving to products they perceive as healthier. It is also dealing with the ongoing onslaught of technological changes and issues such as addressing workplace harassment issues and raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour. While the new CEO has stated he would maintain Easterbrook's focus on technology as CEO, this sudden shift in leadership at the fast-food giant among this not so rosy environments will be keenly watched.
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