McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook Steps Down After Relationship With Employee

Fast food giant McDonald's announced Sunday that Steve Easterbrook has stepped down as its chief executive officer after engaging in a consensual relationship with an employee, which is a violation of company policy.

The Associated Press reported Easterbrook's stepping down, saying it's against McDonald's policy for managers to have romantic relationships with employees who may report to them directly or indirectly.

Easterbrook, who became CEO in 2015, sent an email to McDonald's employees acknowledging the relationship, and called it a mistake.

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

The company's board of directors conducted a review of Easterbrook's actions and voted Friday on his departure. A company spokesperson said Easterbrook's separation package will be detailed in a federal filing on Monday.

The board named Chris Kempczinski, who was president of McDonald's USA, as its new president and CEO. Kempczinski has also been appointed to the board of directors.

"I'm thrilled to be leading this incredible company. Working alongside our talented team, our board, our franchisees and suppliers, I am committed to upholding our rich heritage of serving our customers and driving value for our shareholders and other stakeholders," Kempczinski said. "We have a responsibility not only to serve great food, but to make it responsibly and to enrich the communities in which we operate. I am energized by this challenge and look forward to guiding McDonald's continued success."

The McDonald's Corporation sent a release Sunday that said Joe Erlinger has been appointed as president of McDonald's USA, effective immediately.

"Joe is a respected leader who is returning to the U.S. after working around the world for McDonald's," Kempczinski said. "He has a proven track record of driving strong results through collaboration with franchisees and a relentless focus on the customer. I am proud and excited that one of my first moves as CEO is to announce his appointment, and am confident in all he will bring to our U.S. business."

Erlinger will oversee business operations of approximately 14,000 McDonald's restaurants in the United States, and he will report to Kempczinski.

"Our U.S. business is the heartbeat of McDonald's," said Erlinger. "I look forward to working with our franchisees to build upon the transformational progress in our largest market. With a talented team that is committed to running great restaurants, we have tremendous momentum to deliver on our brand promise to all of our customers."

McDonald's restaurant
McDonalds chain restaurant in Middletown, DE, on July 26, 2019. Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images