McDonald's CEO Charlie Bell
AP Photo
Charlie Bell, chief executive officer of McDonald's Corp., is seen in this undated company handout photo. Bell, who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in May, resigned Monday to focus on his battle with the disease, forcing the company to make a sudden leadership switch for the second time in seven months.
updated 11/23/2004 7:50:56 AM ET 2004-11-23T12:50:56

McDonald's Corp. is welcoming its second new CEO in seven months, as Charlie Bell abruptly resigned to focus on battling the colon cancer doctors detected two weeks after he became the fast food giant's chief.

He was replaced Monday by vice chairman Jim Skinner, who since July has overseen McDonald's operations in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

Skinner, 60, began his McDonald's career in 1971 as a restaurant manager trainee — with the company quick to note his long tenure and experience throughout the company's operations.

"In the course of his 33-year career at McDonald's, he has led every restaurant geography of the company — and like Charlie before him, his McDonald's roots are on the details and discipline of restaurant operations and customer service," McDonald's chairman Andrew J. McKenna said in a statement late Monday announcing Bell's departure.

The company also named Mike Roberts, CEO of McDonald's USA, as its the new president and chief operating officer.

McKenna's statement said Bell had asked him to thank everyone for their support.

"Your support and empathy are sources of inspiration and courage to Charlie, and to all of us at McDonald's," it said.

Bell will continue to serve as a member of the company's board of directors.

Bell, 44, was diagnosed with cancer weeks after succeeding Jim Cantalupo in April after Cantalupo died of an apparent heart attack. He underwent surgery then, and has missed significant time at work since the spring because of the cancer. Earlier this month he skipped a gathering of worldwide McDonald's managers in his native Sydney, Australia.

Bell had returned to the hospital in September for further cancer therapy, and the Oak Brook, Ill.-based company has largely declined to comment on the severity of his condition or treatments.

Bell rose through the ranks at McDonald's, starting at a Sydney restaurant when he was 15 in 1975, becoming the youngest store manager in Australia by the age of 19.

Under Cantalupo and Bell, McDonald's has staged a rebound in sales the past two years as the company slowed the pace of new store openings, added popular new salads and breakfast items to its menus and shed noncore parts of its business.

One analyst said the change in leadership likely would have no major impact on the company's stock because current McDonald's executives are replacing Bell and the company has been doing well.

"Because this was an internal promotion, I think it's basically status quo," said Jerry McVety, president of McVety & Associates in Farmington Hills, Mich. "I don't see any real philosophical changes."

Before his promotion Monday, Roberts had been in charge of the company's U.S. restaurants. He started at McDonald's in 1977 as a regional purchasing manager.

"In his new role, Mike will bring his energy and experienced leadership to McDonald's restaurant operations throughout the world," McKenna's statement said.

Last month, McDonald's reported a 42 percent jump in third-quarter profits as its turnaround continued at full speed well into a second year. Since ending a protracted stretch of sluggish results in the crowded fast-food industry, McDonald's has had six consecutive quarterly increases in same-store sales — restaurants open 13 months or more — among its 13,000-plus U.S. outlets. The third-quarter rise was a healthy 8.5 percent.

The company posted net earnings for the July-September quarter of $778 million, or 61 cents a share, up from $547 million, or 43 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenues were up 9 percent to $4.9 billion from $4.5 billion a year earlier.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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