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McDonald’s U.S. chief Fields out

McDonald's USA President Jan Fields is leaving company after more than 35 years. | AP

McDonald's USA President Jan Fields is leaving the company after more than 35 years. | AP

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Updated: December 19, 2012 12:31PM



The head of McDonald’s U.S. operations is out, despite her long friendship and years of working with CEO Donald Thompson, in what the fast-food giant described as a business decision.

Jan Fields, 57, who has been with Oak Brook-based McDonald’s more than 35 years, will be succeeded as president of McDonald’s USA by Jeff Stratton, currently global chief restaurant officer, on Dec. 1.

McDonald’s has struggled with challenges recently such as increased competition and a lack of new products. The announcement came a week after the company reported October sales slid 2.2 percent at its U.S. locations, and its first global decline since 2006.

“We appreciate and salute Jan for more than three decades of inspired leadership and impactful service under the Arches,” said McDonald’s President and Chief Executive Officer Don Thompson in a statement.

Fields and Thompson, who are good friends after having worked together for decades, had some “candid discussions about the future of the business” and “decided this was the direction to go,” said McDonald’s spokeswoman Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem.

Fields, who started her career working french fries as a crew member, had reported to Thompson when she was chief operating officer and Thompson was president of McDonald’s USA and again after Fields was promoted to succeed him as chief operating officer of McDonald’s USA and Thompson served as chief operations officer of the global business.

Stratton, 57, who currently oversees nearly 34,000 McDonald’s restaurants globally, will report to Jeff Fenton, McDonald’s chief operating officer.

“Jeff’s roots in restaurant operations, his strong leadership and his innovative actions driving our Plan to Win framework make him the right choice to lead the U.S. business,” Fenton said in a statement. “Don and I are confident in Jeff’s deep experience and his dedication to finding solutions that are right for our customers and shareholders.”

As global chief restaurant officer, Stratton oversees operations, training and innovation. He also started as a crew member more than 40 years ago in Detroit, and previously served as chief restaurant officer for McDonald’s USA. Sa Shekhem said the transition to president of McDonald’s USA, which is a promotion, should be seamless.

“A change in management doesn’t signal a change in strategy,” she said.

Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy at Morningstar said Thursday it would be difficult to pin Fields’ departure on any single issue, but McDonald’s has struggled with increased competition and products such as the English Pub burger never making it to market.

McDonald’s also has returned to its “Dollar Menu” after its more expensive “Extra Value Menu” failed to attract more customers.

Yet Fields was responsible for efforts that have increased sales such as McCafe expansions and popular beverages, including gourmet coffees and berry-flavored chillers, analysts say.

She also revamped the Happy Meal last year to include apple slices and fewer french fries. And Fields spearheaded McDonald’s decision in September to start posting calorie information on its menu boards, ahead of a new regulation that will require restaurant chains to do so.

McDonald’s has more than 34,000 locations around the world, with about 14,000 in the U.S.

McDonald’s shares slipped 57 cents, or 0.7 percent, to close at $84.05. Earlier in the session the price dropped to a low of $83.61, its lowest level since August 2011. The stock traded as high as $102.22 in January, and is down about 16 percent since the start of the year.

Contributing: AP



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