McDonald’s boss fired after a “consensual” affair with a staff member

The Board of Directors considers that the very relationship “consented to” is a violation of the company’s policy.


American fast-food giant McDonald’s announced on Sunday, November 3, that it had fired its general manager, Steve Easterbrook, for having an affair with a staff member, considering that he had made a mistake in judgment.

The group asserts in a press release that this departure has “no connection with McDonald’s operational or financial performance”. But the board of directors “determined that[Mr. Easterbrook] had violated the company’s rules and that he had exercised poor judgment with respect to a recent consensual relationship with an employee”.

In a letter to the employees, Mr. Easterbrook himself admitted to having made a “mistake”. “Given the company’s values, I agree with the Board of Directors that it is time for me to move on,” he writes. McDonald’s did not disclose anything about the employee in question, particularly if it was a male or female.


In office since 2015

Mr. Easterbrook is replaced, with immediate effect, by Chris Kempczinski, who until now managed McDonald’s operations in the United States. “Chris is taking over the reins of this great company at a time when performance is solid and sustainable, and the board has every confidence in him to be in the best position to define the vision and guide the strategy that will enable the company to continue its success,” commented the company’s Chairman of the Board, Enrique Hernandez Jr. in the release.

“He has the skills and experience to have successfully completed our operations in the United States[from 2017 to 2019], where franchisees produce solid financial and operating results, and to have overseen McDonalds’ global strategy, business development and innovation in 2015 and 2016,” he added. A graduate of Duke University and the prestigious Harvard Business School, he is a regular in consumer goods groups having previously worked at PepsiCo, Kraft, Procter & Gamble.

Mr. Easterbrook joined the company in 2015 as Managing Director, which has 38,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries. Under his leadership, McDonald’s stock on Wall Street doubled and the company’s net income increased every year.


Decrease in sales

However, it has not been able to stop the company’s gradual decline in sales, which, like other large fast food chains, is facing changes in consumer habits in search of healthier food. He tried to revitalize sales by simplifying his menu, offering a breakfast package all day long, sodas and coffees for 1 dollar in the United States or hamburgers in small sizes.

McDonald’s has also invested heavily in technologies to facilitate ordering, for example, from kiosks in restaurants or application on phones, or in delivery services.

However, the fast-food giant disappointed the markets in its latest quarterly report, citing slower than expected sales growth in the United States, where it seems to be paying dearly for its delay in vegetarian burgers, the latest trend in the sector.

Workplace liaisons have cost many CEOs their place in the United States in recent years, and the subject has become even more sensitive since the #metoo movement against harassment and sexual assault:

In 2018, the bosses of microprocessor manufacturer Intel, Brian Krzanich, and hip yoga clothing manufacturer Lululemon, Laurent Potdevin, left their respective companies for relationships with female employees.

In 2016, Darren Huston, CEO of the online business site Priceline, had to resign for similar reasons. The same goes for Brian Dunn, CEO of the Best Buy retail group, in 2012.