THE boss of McDonald’s is likely to walk away with millions despite being sacked over an affair with an employee.
Briton Steve Easterbrook, who made more than £12million last year, said he made a ‘mistake’ by breaking the company rule against relationships between managers and staff.
Shares in the fast-food giant fell to a six-month low after the divorcee, 52, was booted out of the Chicago HQ. And in a fresh twist last night, the company revealed its HR chief — Briton David Fairhurst — is leaving after 15 years.
Mr Easterbrook’s brother-in-law Mark Baxter said: ‘He’s been a naughty boy.’ In an email to staff, Mr Easterbrook said: ‘Given the values of the company, I agree with the board that it is time for me to move on.’
Mr Easterbrook, who was divorced from wife Susie at about the time he moved to the US to take the top job in 2015, had been credited with reviving the fortunes of McDonald’s.
He joined the company as a north London branch manager in 1993, and shot to prominence as UK boss in 2006. He debated with Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser on BBC Newsnight as he hit back over health concerns about the chain’s food. But as worldwide boss he faced walkouts by workers in the US demanding better wages and more protection against sexual harassment.
‘It’s clear McDonald’s culture is rotten from top to bottom,’ said employee Tanya Harrell, a member of campaign group Fight for $15. ‘The company needs to be completely transparent about Easterbrook’s firing and any other executive departures related to these issues.’
Watford-born Mr Easterbrook departs with at least £524,000 — half his basic salary. He retains shares and could land at least a portion of last year’s hefty bonus if targets are met. He is being replaced by head of US operations Chris Kempczinski. No reason was given for the exit of Wigan-born Mr Fairhurst.
More bosses of leading companies lost their jobs for ethical misconduct than for financial underperformance in 2018, according to PwC. Intel chief Brian Krzanich quit in June that year because he had broken a ban on dating employees introduced by predecessor Paul Otellini — who himself met his wife while she was working as a lawyer for the firm.
‘On the face of it, McDonald’s stance does appear to be a strict one,’ said employment lawyer Stephen Woodhouse. ‘However, it’s likely this policy is influenced, at least in part, by the recent MeToo movement.’
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said the trend for such policies worried him. ‘We don’t have them in Ryanair,’ he said. ‘If it’s consensual between consenting adults, then God speed.’