McDonald’s CEO Steps Down, Shares Rise

McDonalds CEO

Shares of McDonald’s (MCD) rose early Thursday morning, a day after the world’s biggest hamburger chain announced a CEO change as it struggles with intense competition and changing attitudes about food.

The company said Wednesday after markets closed that Don Thompson, who has been CEO for 2½ years, was stepping down and would be replaced by Steve Easterbrook, the chief brand officer. A company representative also said an unspecified number of employees at the company’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, and elsewhere also were notified of layoffs.

The fast-food chain has reported falling customer traffic in its established stores and is dealing with a menu that many feel has become bloated. It also faces competition from chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) and Panera Bread (PNRA) as customers increasingly look for toward food that they feel is better quality.

Janney Capital Markets analyst Mark Kalinowski said the new CEO faces several key questions like whether the company’s menu simplification can be meaningfully accelerated and what can be done to improve its domestic reputation. The analyst also questioned, in a research note, the extent to which the company will allow Easterbrook to act as a change agent it “sorely needs.”

“Just the act of naming him the new CEO suggests to us that the board is growing less patient, and we mean that in a positive way,” Kalinowski wrote.

McDonald’s Corp. shares started climbing Wednesday evening and were up 3.2 percent, or $2.82, to $91.60 a couple hours before markets opened Thursday.

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