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McDonald’s Seeking Global Marketing Chief…Again

Steve Easterbrook

Denis Hennequin

McDonald’s Corp. is again looking for someone to oversee global marketing following its surprising announcement today that Steve Easterbrook will become president of McDonald’s Europe on December 1. This follows the equally surprising resignation earlier in the week of European operations chief Denis Hennequin to become CEO of Accor Hotels Group.

Little more than two months ago, Easterbrook was tapped as EVP and Global Chief Brand Officer, succeeding Mary Dillon, who resigned as global chief marketing officer in May to take over U.S. Cellular.

“Steve’s keen knowledge of our business in Europe and his consumer-driven approach to building our brand make him the idea choice to lead McDonald’s Europe,” McDonald’s President-COO Don Thompson said in a statement announcing the choice. CEO Jim Skinner said a successor as global chief brand officer will be announced “in the near future.”

Easterbrook’s rapid ascension makes him (as well as Thompson and others) a possible future successor to Skinner, who has not indicated when he plans to retire. But Easterbrook, who joined McDonald’s in 1993 from accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers, has quickly made a mark for himself in the company. Just four years ago he was made President-CEO of McDonald’s UK operations. He became president for the chain’s Northern Division in January 2007, with oversight for the UK, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Republic of Ireland. Easterbrook thus has the broad range of experience—finance, operations and marketing (if only briefly)—that McDonald’s historically gives to executives it grooms from top jobs.

The choice of Easterbrook so soon after his departure from Europe must certainly have been a surprise to McDonald’s Corp.’s four European division presidents. Jean-Pierre Petit (France/south division), Bane Knezevic (Germany/west division), Jill McDonald (UK/north division) and Khamzat Khasbulatov (Russia/east division) all were considered by observers to be obvious candidates to succeed Hennequin.  For the fiscal quarter ended Sept. 30, 2010, global same-store sales were up 6%, with U.S. sales rising 5.3%, Europe up 4.1% and Asia/Pacific/MidEast/Africa up 8.1%.

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