Steve Easterbrook (left) will succeed Don Thompson as president and chief executive officer of McDonald's.

OAK BROOK, Ill. — Steve Easterbrook will be promoted to president and CEO of McDonald’s Corp. on March 1. He will replace Don Thompson, who is stepping down from his roles as president and CEO and a member of the company’s board of directors. Easterbrook will take his position on the board.

“Steve is a strong and experienced executive who successfully led our UK and European business units, and the board is confident that he can effectively lead the company to improved financial and operational performance,” said Andrew McKenna, non-executive chairman of the board of directors.

Prior to this promotion, Easterbrook was senior executive vice president and chief brand officer, leading McDonald’s efforts to improve its marketing, advance menu innovation, and create an infrastructure for its digital initiatives. He previously served in leadership roles across the company’s global business, including president of McDonald’s Europe.

The change in leadership comes at a tumultuous time for the world’s largest fast-food company. On Jan. 23, the company reported its results for fiscal 2014 and saw its global comparable sales fall 1 percent as store traffic fell in all of its major markets.

Net income for the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2014, was $4,757.8 million, equal to $4.82 per share on the common stock, down 15 percent from $5,585.9 million, or $5.55 per share, for the year before.
Revenues for the year dropped 2 percent to $27,441.3 million from revenues of $28,105.7 million in fiscal 2013.

Thompson said the comparable sales would continue to fall in the first quarter of fiscal 2015 during a conference call with financial analysts.

Thompson took over as president and CEO in July 2012.

“It’s tough to say goodbye to the McFamily, but there is a time and season for everything,” he said. “I am truly confident as I pass the reins over to Steve that he will continue to move our business and brand forward.”

In addition to the change in leadership, Pete Bensen, senior executive vice president and CEO, has been promoted to the newly-created role of chief administrative officer. In his new position reporting to Easterbrook, Bensen will oversee a number of functions supporting the company’s operations. Kevin Ozan, who currently serves as senior vice president and corporate controller, will succeed Bensen and has been promoted to executive vice president and CFO.

In overnight trading following the leadership change announcement, shares of McDonald’s rose about 3 percent, to $91.40 per share.