McDonald’s CEO steps down after relationship with employee, which violates company policy

SUN VALLEY, ID - JULY 10: Steve Easterbrook, chief executive officer of McDonald's, attends the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 10, 2019 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Every July, some of the world's most wealthy and powerful businesspeople from the media, finance, and technology spheres converge at the Sun Valley Resort for the exclusive week-long conference. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — McDonald’s chief executive officer has left the company after violating company policy by engaging in a consensual relationship with an employee, the corporation said Sunday.

The fast food giant said former president and CEO Steve Easterbrook demonstrated poor judgment. McDonald’s forbids managers from having romantic relationships with direct or indirect reports.

In an email to employees, Easterbrook acknowledged he had a relationship with an employee 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.

McDonald’s board of directors voted on Easterbrook’s departure Friday after conducting a thorough review. Details of Easterbrook’s separation package will be released Monday in a federal filing, according to a company spokesperson. Easterbrook was CEO since 2015.

The board of directors named Chris Kempczinski, who recently served as president of McDonald’s USA, as its new president and CEO.

Two weeks ago, McDonald’s reported a 2% drop in net income for the third quarter as it spent heavily on store remodeling and expanded delivery service. The company’s share price has dropped 7.5% since, though it’s still up 9.2% for the year. The leadership transition is unrelated to the company’s operational or financial performance, the company said in a news release.

Kempczinski joined McDonald’s in 2015. He was responsible for approximately 14,000 McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. He was instrumental in the development of McDonald’s strategic plan and oversaw the most comprehensive transformation of the U.S. business in McDonald’s history, said Enrique Hernandez, chairman of McDonald’s board, in a statement.

Kempczinski described Easterbrook as a mentor.

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