Claire Babrowski, senior executive vice president and chief restaurant operations officer for McDonald’s, has resigned from the company after 31 years. She was the top woman executive at the company and had been considered a possibility to assume the CEO spot when former chief exec Charlie Bell stepped down recently.

“McDonald’s owes Claire a huge debt of gratitude for the difference she has made throughout her 31 exemplary years of service,” said McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner in a statement. “She began her career as a crew member in Ottawa, Illinois, and dedicated the past three decades of her life to McDonald’s.”

Claire Babrowski said, “I have spent my entire professional career at McDonald’s. I started as a wide-eyed crew member, and since then I’ve been singularly focused on our people, our brand, our restaurants and our customers. My years at McDonald’s have been incredibly rewarding, and I am personally very proud of the contributions I’ve made to the success of our company.

“But life is short, and I’ve recently been contemplating new horizons — thinking about business opportunities beyond McDonald’s, wondering how my talent and experience would apply to new challenges.

“For me, the change process began with a conversation with Jim Skinner, my long-time friend and champion. I’ve worked for and with Jim for many years, and there is no one I trust more to lead this great company. Jim encouraged me to stay at McDonald’s, but also understood and supports my decision to move on to new challenges.”

The company expects to name a successor for this position after the new year.

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