Jack M. Greenberg, chairman and chief executive officer of McDonald’s Corporation (NYSE: MCD) announced last Wednesday his decision to retire after 21 years of service to the company, effective the end of this year. Subsequently, the Board of Directors elected Jim Cantalupo, formerly vice chairman and president, to succeed him as chairman of the board and CEO, effective January 1, 2003.

As part of this senior leadership transition, the Board also elected Charlie Bell, currently president of McDonald’s Europe, to the position of president and chief operating officer, McDonald’s Corporation, and named Jim Skinner to be vice chairman of the corporation. Both Bell and Skinner will report directly to Cantalupo.

In addition to Cantalupo’s re-appointment to the Board, Charlie Bell was also named a director of the Board today. Both appointments are effective January 1, 2003.

Describing his departure as giving a new management team an opportunity to lead, Greenberg said, “It’s never easy to leave something that has brought so much professional and personal satisfaction into your life. Certainly that is how I feel about my decision to step down as McDonald’s chairman and CEO.”

Recognizing the challenges McDonald’s is facing, Cantalupo congratulated Greenberg for his service at McDonald’s and said he was excited about assuming the positions of chairman and CEO.

Cantalupo, 59, who rejoins the McDonald’s Board after resigning from the company a scant eight months ago, is a 28 year veteran of McDonald’s, having joined the company in 1974 as a controller. He was promoted to vice president in 1974 and senior vice president in 1981. In 1987, he was appointed president of McDonald’s International, and eventually chairman and CEO of McDonald’s International, where he earned a reputation as the architect of McDonald’s international business success.

Industry analyst Mitch Spieser of Lehman Brothers called Cantalupo’s appointment “dubious,” given his strengths and the skill sets needed for McDonald’s at present. Noting Cantalupo’s reputation for rapid international growth, Speiser, in a note to investors, said, “The choice of CEO differed from our preference for an outsider with expertise in brand resuscitation &/or operations.”

Reuters reported on Saturday that Wall Street is buzzing with rumors that the real line of succession may fall to Charlie Bell. His appointment as president and chief operating officer may be an intended pathway to the top spot. Bell started with McDonald’s at 15 years old as a part-time crew member in Sydney, Australia. At nineteen, he became the youngest store manager in Australia, by 27 a vice president, and by 29 a member of the board of directors.

Greenberg’s watch as chairman and CEO has seen same-store sales and stock values drop steadily. His resignation comes amidst a myriad of changes and new plans over the last few months designed to revive the burger giant.

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