McDonald's CEO Charlie Bell steps down to focus on cancer therapy

Tuesday, November 23rd 2004, 8:53 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ McDonald's Corp. CEO Charlie Bell, who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in May, resigned Monday to focus on his battle with the disease, forcing the company to make a sudden leadership switch for the second time in seven months.

The fast food giant named vice chairman Jim Skinner as its new CEO, and the board elected Mike Roberts, CEO of McDonald's USA, to the position of president and chief operating officer.

``Charlie is a remarkable leader and well loved by the McDonald's family, and we fully understand and respect his decision,'' McDonald's chairman Andrew J. McKenna said in a statement.

Bell will remain on the company's board of directors, company spokesman Walt Riker said.

Bell, 44, was diagnosed with cancer soon after succeeding Jim Cantalupo in April, when Cantalupo died of an apparent heart attack. Bell has missed significant time at work because of the cancer and earlier this month skipped a gathering of worldwide McDonald's managers in his native Sydney, Australia.

Bell had returned to the hospital in September for further cancer therapy, and the Oak Brook, Ill.-based company has largely declined to comment on the severity of his condition or treatments.

Bell rose through the ranks at McDonald's, starting at a Sydney restaurant when he was 15 in 1975, becoming the youngest store manager in Australia by the age of 19.

Under Cantalupo and Bell, McDonald's has staged a rebound in sales the past two years as the company slowed the pace of new store openings, added popular new salads and breakfast items to its menus and shed noncore parts of its business.

The executives succeeding Bell bring years of experience with McDonald's to their new jobs.

Skinner began has career with McDonald's in 1971 as a restaurant manager trainee in the Chicago suburb of Carpentersville and Roberts started in 1977 as a regional purchasing manager.

Skinner also is a former head of McDonald's European business. In July, he was given oversight of McDonald's operations in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

``In Jim Skinner, McDonald's has an outstanding leader who will continue the strategic focus established by Jim Cantalupo and Charlie Bell,'' McKenna's statement said.

Last month, McDonald's reported a 42 percent jump in third-quarter profits as its turnaround continued at full speed well into a second year.

Before his promotion Monday, Roberts had been in charge of the company's U.S. restaurants.