Donald Thompson has been named CEO of McDonald’s Corp., taking the helm of the world’s largest fast food restaurant chain. He will assume his new role on July 1, succeeding retiring chief executive Jim Skinner. The move places Thompson, one of BLACK ENTERPRISE’s 100 Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America, in the exclusive club of African Americans running major publicly-traded corporations – one that includes Kenneth I. Chenault of American Express and Ursula Burns of Xerox Corp.
“I’m humbled to take the baton as CEO of McDonald’s,” Thompson said in a statement. “Our management team is strong and will remain focused on the Plan To Win and our three global priorities—optimizing the menu, modernizing the customer experience and broadening our accessibility to even more customers.”
In making the selection, McDonald’s Chairman Andy McKenna maintained that Thompson, 48, represents the transformative figure needed to advance the $24 billion fast food giant in a rapidly-evolving, ultra-competitive environment. McKenna said in a statement: “As we look to the future, the board has every confidence that Don’s strategic leadership and global business insight make him the ideal CEO.” McKenna further stated that Thompson’s performance in the current role as President and COO of McDonald’s USA, a post in which he directs global strategy and operations for more than 33,000 McDonald’s restaurants in 119 countries, “speak to his qualifications to further drive the company’s momentum.”
Since being named BLACK ENTERPRISE Corporate Executive of the Year in 2007, he has gained high marks for bringing the sizzle back to McDonald’s. The 22-year veteran has been one of the driving forces behind the company’s recipe for growth: the corporate “Plan To Win” through initiatives that included the allocation of $2.4 billion to modernize 2,000 restaurants and construct another 1,000 as well as the creation of new menu offerings like oatmeal, smoothies, and frappes to broaden the customer base worldwide. As a result, the company has eaten the competition’s lunch and taken a huge bite of market share over the past few years not only in the U.S. but in Europe, Asia/Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.
“One of the reasons we’re doing well is our growth beyond our traditional industry with new food items and beverages like McCafé Coffees, Frappés, and Real Fruit Smoothies; extended hours; as well as a renewed focus on our classic menu favorites and breakfast. We’ve reached outside of the traditional quick service industry to serve customers new and different products with the service, speed, and convenience they expect from McDonald’s,” Thompson, a Chicago native and electrical engineer by training, told BLACK ENTERPRISE in an exclusive interview last year. “We’re working hard to stay aligned around our business priorities in every market. A challenge we face is to not become complacent with the positive results we’re achieving. We continue to set aspirational targets for our markets.”
Despite McDonald’s February sales missed analysts’ targets due to Europe’s battered economy and the continent’s brutal winter, investors have been loving the stock: Share prices have risen nearly 30% in the past year.
The ascension of Thompson, considered a frontrunner for the CEO slot since his promotion two years ago, comes at a time when there has been an increased focus on boardroom and senior leadership inclusion by organizations such as the Executive Leadership Council, a network of more than 400 of the most powerful African American senior executives.
“The Executive Leadership Council congratulates Don Thompson on his appointment as Chief Executive Officer of McDonald’s,” says Arnold Donald, ELC’s president and CEO. “Don has been an ELC member since 2007 and in 2010 we awarded him our Achievement Award for his high level of success in corporate America and his influence on one of the world’s most recognizable brands. Don’s appointment represents another step towards increasing representation of African Americans in senior executive positions.”
Thompson’s appointment comes weeks after another corporate milestone: the promotion of Rosalind G. Brewer, the former executive vice president and president of Walmart East, to President and CEO of Sam’s Club.
As the leader of McDonald’s, Thompson will continue the commitment to inclusion of a company that has been among BLACK ENTERPRISE‘s 40 Best Companies for Diversity. He has maintained that “we would not be where we are today without having the mix of people, ideas, backgrounds and ethnicities that we have in the organization.”
Thompson is fully expected to drive McDonald’s growth through his continued attention to talent development, customer service and innovation, whether its identifying diverse employees or developing new products. “R&D happens every day at McDonald’s,” Thompson told BE. “Innovation takes place in all forms whether its human resources development, operating systems development, supply chain efficiency or those things customers see in a restaurant.”