McDonald's boss Don Thompson retires as Steve Easterbrook takes the helm

McDonald's has had one of its most difficult financial years in decades

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The Independent Online

McDonald's has said its chief executive Don Thompson will retire on 1 March, to be replaced by Steve Easterbrook.

The Board of Directors of McDonald's Corporation made the announcement yesterday.

Easterbrook will also take over the president and board director roles being vacated by Thompson, who has been with the company for 25 years, the company said in a statement.

McDonald's said Easterbrook was previously senior executive vice president and chief brand officer and has worked as president of McDonald's Europe.

Andrew McKenna, non-executive chairman of the Board of Directors, said: "Steve is a strong and experienced executive who successfully led our UK and European business units and the Board is confident that he can effectively lead the Company to improved financial and operational performance,“ said Andrew McKenna, non-executive Chairman of the Board of Directors."

McKenna continued: "On behalf of the Board I sincerely thank Don for his valuable contributions and outstanding service throughout his career at McDonald's. We will be indebted for his passionate leadership, business acumen, dedication and system knowledge."

McDonald's has had one of its most difficult financial years in decades. Shares in the world's biggest fast-food chain jumped 3.2 per cent in extended trading following the news.

Thompson, the 51-year-old former president of McDonald's USA who took the global helm in July 2012, had the challenge of adding to nearly nine years of sales gains at established restaurants.

But the following September, McDonald's reported a decline in same-store sales as it fought to hold on to customers with changing tastes and amid external pressures ranging political and economic turmoil in Europe to food safety scares in China.

Announcing his retirement, Thompson said: "It's tough to say goodbye to the McFamily, but there is a time and season for everything. I am truly confident as I pass the reins over to Steve, that he will continue to move our business and brand forward."

Easterbrook said: "I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Don and congratulate him on his remarkable career at McDonald's. I am honored to lead this great brand, and am committed to working with our franchisees, suppliers and employees to drive forward our strategic business priorities to better serve our customers."

McDonald's warned last week that business would be weak in the first half of 2015 and said it would cut its annual construction budget to the lowest in more than five years as it opens fewer restaurants in struggling markets.

The fast-food chain is also under pressure in the United States from a surge in competition from upstarts such as Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Chipotle Mexican Grill and other smaller, regional food outlets.

Additional reporting by Reuters