McDonald’s CEO steps down after relationship with employee

CHICAGO — McDonald’s has booted CEO Steve Easterbrook after its board determined a consensual relationship he had with an employee violated company policy.

Easterbrook will be replaced by Chris Kempczinski, who most recently served as president of McDonald’s USA.

Easterbrook, who became CEO in 2015 after a long career with McDonald’s, “separated from the company following the Board’s determination that he violated company policy and demonstrated poor judgment involving a recent consensual relationship with an employee,” the Chicago-based fast food giant said in a statement Sunday.

The board voted Friday to terminate him. Easterbrook also resigned from the board. The company declined to provide additional details about the relationship in question.

In a letter to employees, Easterbrook, 52, admitted the relationship violated McDonald’s policy.

“This was a mistake,” he said. “Given the values of the company, I agree with the Board that it is time for me to move on.” He went on to ask for privacy and congratulate Kempczinski, whom he called “driven and forward-looking” and “the ideal person” to take the CEO role.

Easterbrook has been at the helm of efforts to modernize McDonald’s, including major store renovations and the installation of self-service kiosks and digital menu boards. Those plans created friction with some franchisees, who formed an owners organization to voice their frustrations that the investments were hurting profits, prompting executives to push back the deadline for renovations.

The burger chain has also invested in technology companies capable of speeding and personalizing the drive-thru experience, and is boosting its delivery capabilities.