McDonald’s board of directors has ousted the fast-food chain’s CEO, Steve Easterbrook. The board, according to a company statement, said he “demonstrated poor judgment involving a recent consensual relationship with an employee.”
This is part of a growing trend in corporate ethics and responsibility, in which the CEO is being held more accountable than ever before. In several recent pieces, I covered the removal of roughly one dozen CEOs of major global corporations. In almost all instances, the incumbent CEOs were let go or pressured to leave.
Up until very recently, becoming a CEO was synonymous with being the king of the castle. They held power and influence and were largely above reproach. CEOs earned substantial fortunes in compensation, controlled their board of directors and some were even viewed as rock stars. Those days are over—at least for now.
In this instance, it appears that McDonald’s exercised a zero-tolerance policy with respect to its rules regarding workplace relationships—particularly those between a manager and subordinate. As a sign of the change, Microsoft founder and former CEO Bill Gates married a product manager at the company, Melinda French, in 1994. This was not seen as a problem or matter of concern at the time.
The current president of McDonald’s USA, Chris Kempczinksi, was named CEO, effective immediately. Kempczinski was invited to join the board as well. “Kempczinski succeeds Steve Easterbrook, who has separated from the company following the board’s determination that he violated company policy and demonstrated poor judgment.”