Durham alumnus and McDonald’s CEO fired after dating employee


Durham alumnus Steve Easterbrook has been fired as McDonald’s chief executive after he had a relationship with an employee.

The board of the world’s largest fast-food chain voted on Mr Easterbrook’s departure on Friday after a review.

The company said the relationship was consensual, but Mr Easterbrook had “violated company policy” and shown “poor judgement”. The company’s rules for managers prohibit them from becoming romantically involved with a subordinate.

Given the values of the company, I agree with the board that it is time for me to move on.

Steve Easterbrook

Mr Easterbrook has also stepped down as McDonald’s president and member of the board. In an email to staff, the British businessman, who is divorced, acknowledged the relationship and said it was a mistake.

“Given the values of the company, I agree with the board that it is time for me to move on,” Easterbrook said in the email.

Mr Easterbrook, 52, studied Natural Science at St Chad’s College, Durham University. He first worked for McDonald’s in 1993 as a manager in London before working his way up the company.

He left in 2011 to become boss of Pizza Express and then Asian food chain Wagamama.

He returned to McDonald’s in 2013 as chief brand officer, before becoming its head in the UK and northern Europe, and then becoming chief executive in 2015.

Mr Easterbrook’s $15.9m (£12.3m) pay packet in 2018 was 2,124 times the median employee salary of $7,473.

Mr Easterbrook is widely credited with steering an array of initiatives including, revitalising the firm’s menus and restaurants by remodelling stores and using better ingredients.

He also introduced a customer loyalty programme, switched to more environmentally-friendly packaging, and expanded delivery options. The value of the company’s shares more than doubled during his tenure in the US.

Details of Mr Easterbrook’s severance package will be released on Monday in a federal filing, according to a company spokesperson.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Easterbrook’s compensation rose with McDonald’s share price and “peaked in 2017 at a total of $21.8m [£16.86m] including $9.1m [£7.04m] in incentive-based pay. He received $15.9m [£12.3m] in total compensation last year”.

McDonald’s has been criticised over the amount it pays shop staff. According to the BBC, Mr Easterbrook $15.9m (£12.3m) pay packet in 2018 was 2,124 times the median employee salary of $7,473.

He will be replaced by Chris Kempczinski, most recently president of McDonald’s USA, with immediate effect.

In a statement, Mr Kempczinski thanked Mr Easterbrook for his contributions, adding: “Steve brought me into McDonald’s and he was a patient and helpful mentor.”

Image by Joribab via Creative Commons

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