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Another C-level executive leaves McDonald’s

Chief People Officer David Fairhurst “departed” the company Monday, one day after CEO Steve Easterbrook was fired. He’s the fourth top executive to leave in recent weeks.
Photograph by Jonathan Maze

McDonald’s Chief People Officer David Fairhurst has left the company as turmoil at the Chicago-based burger giant continued into Monday following the stunning departure of its CEO.

Fairhurst’s exit was not described as a resignation. He “departed the company,” a spokeswoman said Monday. The company would not provide any other details, saying that it does not comment on personnel matters.

Multiple sources said that new CEO Chris Kempczinski announced Fairhurst’s departure in an email to employees Monday morning.

Fairhurst’s departure continues the upheaval at McDonald’s headquarters that has now claimed the jobs of several executives, including CEO Steve Easterbrook, who was fired over the weekend for what was described as a consensual affair with an employee.  

It also brings to four the number of C-level executives who have left McDonald’s in recent weeks.

Chief Marketing Officer Silvia Lagnado and Chief Communications Officer Robert Gibbs both left the company last month.

McDonald’s stock was down 3% through late morning trading Monday.

Easterbrook’s departure was described as a separation “without cause,” according to a federal securities filing on Monday. That means he is entitled to severance payments, including $675,000. He is also eligible for prorated stock and options awards, and he gets to keep his existing stock awards.

McDonald’s has paid Easterbrook $53 million in salary, bonuses, stock and options over the past three years. He was paid $15.9 million in 2018.  His severance agreement enables him to keep $37 million worth of stock options.

It also includes an unusual provision requiring him to avoid talking about McDonald’s in the media for five years, including social media, books and interviews, for five years. Previous executives, including predecessor Don Thompson, received similar clauses covering just three years, according to federal securities documents and a search on the financial services site Sentieo.

The severance agreement keeps Easterbrook from working at a competitor for two years. Those competitors listed include typical fast-food chains like Wendy’s and Burger King but also feature more atypical chains like Jamba Juice and Quiznos.

Kempczinski, meanwhile, was given a base salary of $1.25 million per year and an annual bonus equal to as much as 170% of that salary. But options and other awards will likely mean considerably more pay for the former president of McDonald’s U.S.

Fairhurst has worked with McDonald’s since 2005 and was named chief people officer in 2015, one of several new executives who arrived at the company along with Easterbrook. Lagnado and Gibbs were also hired that year.

The McDonald’s board voted to fire Easterbrook, a move that was announced Sunday afternoon. The company said that he “demonstrated poor judgment involving a recent consensual relationship with an employee.”

UPDATED: This story has been updated to include additional information.

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