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The saga of McDonald’s and former CEO Steve Easterbrook

April 6, 2021, 10:31 AM UTC

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Good morning.

Would you like fries with that?” Those words, a wise friend once told me, are the most profitable in the English language. And they also are indicative of McDonald’s one-time reputation for operational excellence.

But the burger juggernaut has stumbled in recent years, as Fortune’s master storyteller Beth Kowitt chronicles in this new piece for the magazine (available online this morning here.) CEO Steve Easterbrook promised to toughen up the company when he took over in 2015—converting the “McFamily” into a fit-for-purpose “McTeam.” And he had some successes, too.

But then the board fired him for sexting with an employee. Subsequent reports of other alleged activities—partly fueled by the bar on the top floor of the company’s Chicago headquarters—compelled the board to take the unusual step of suing the ex-CEO to claw back his compensation. Meanwhile, former Kraft executive Chris Kempczinski has stepped into the CEO role and is now trying to keep moving the company forward while repairing internal damage. All of this is complicated by the fact that at McDonald’s, power is shared between the company and its franchisees. And big decisions made at corporate don’t always go down well in the field.

I don’t want to give away too much of the story here. This one is worth taking the time to read in full. When you are finished, you may be more willing to take this advice that Kim Scott offers in her new book, Just Work:

“Creating a culture of workplace partying is a recipe for everything from awkwardness to disaster. I would recommend not allowing alcohol in the workplace at all. Even workplaces that limit alcohol to special celebrations often find that bad things happen on those occasions.”

Cheers!  More news below.

Alan Murray


Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse has reported a massive $4.7 billion hit from last month's Archegos collapse. Coming on the back of the bank's substantial exposure to the collapsed Greensill Capital, there are consequences: chief risk officer Lara Warner is out, and investment banking chief Brian Chin is being replaced by BoA and Goldman veteran Christian Meissner. Wall Street Journal

Crunch time

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, a noted foe of hyperbole, has compared upcoming IMF and World Bank meetings this week to the 1944 Bretton Woods conference, which redefined the international monetary system. Yellen: "Our current juncture is no less significant—what we do in the coming months and years will have profound impacts on the trajectory of our country and on the global economic order." Fortune

Air France

The French government's latest bailout of Air France-KLM will more than double its stake in the airline group, to nearly 30%. The European Commission has approved the $4.7 billion recapitalization, in exchange for which Air France will give up 18 of its coveted slots at Paris-Orly—competitors will only be able to nab those positions with crews employed on local contracts, so as to avoid "social dumping." CNBC

McConnell warning

"Stay out of politics," Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell warned U.S. business leaders yesterday after their criticism of Georgia's new voting law. "Don't pick sides in these big fights," he added. "Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order." Reuters


Google vs. Oracle

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Google did not violate Oracle's copyrights related to the Java programming language. Thus ends a decade-long battle that threatened to up-end how software development works—the core of the case was about the reuse of the application programming interfaces (APIs) that make different companies' software or hardware interact. In the end, interoperability won. Fortune

Bond fears

Italian and French banks are more exposed to the sovereign debt of their own countries than ever before, reviving fears about the return of the "doom loop" that appeared a decade ago, during the EU's sovereign debt crisis. Financial Times

Fighting disinformation

Fortune's Jeremy Kahn takes a close look at Facebook's A.I.-powered attempts to tackle disinformation on its platform—a tough battle, since "A.I. works best when the data it’s analyzing changes little over time. That’s not the case for hate speech or disinformation. What results is a cat-and-mouse game between those disseminating malicious content and Facebook’s systems." Fortune

Google shift

Google ad chief Jerry Dischler argues in this Fortune piece that the company's "new path toward privacy-centered advertising" will lead to a situation "where relevant advertising and ad-supported content can coexist with a private and secure experience for people browsing the web." Whether this will convince the rest of the ad industry remains to be seen… Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.