Chicago McDonald's Corp. chairman and CEO Jim Cantalupo, who orchestrated a turnaround at the hamburger giant and oversaw the introduction of healthier foods such as salads, died of a heart attack Monday at age 60.
The fast-food chain quickly named president and chief operating officer Charlie Bell, 43, to succeed Cantalupo as CEO and Andrew McKenna, 74, the board's presiding director, as chairman.
Cantalupo, who took the top job just 16 months ago, was stricken in Orlando, Fla., where McDonald's was holding its international franchisees' convention. The company said he died at a hospital after suffering the heart attack at his hotel in the middle of the night.
"Jim was a brilliant man who brought tremendous leadership, energy and passion to his job," McKenna said. "He made an indelible mark on McDonald's system."
A three-decade veteran of the Oak Brook, Ill.-based fast-food giant, Cantalupo returned from a brief retirement to become chairman in January 2003. The move came after McDonald's struggled through two-plus years of sagging U.S. sales and reported its first quarterly loss at the end of 2002.
Under his leadership, the company worked to revitalize itself through new products, a focus on health and a return to the basics -- better food and faster service -- instead of the breakneck expansion he had once championed.
The company slowed its expansion pace, closed hundreds of restaurants and added items, including the McGriddle, which combines pancakes, sausage and syrup in a breakfast sandwich.
In the face of lawsuits claiming fast-food makes people fat, McDonald's added salads and white-meat chicken nuggets last year. Just last week, it announced the introduction of Adult Happy Meals, with salad, bottled water and a pedometer, as well as healthier options for children's Happy Meals, including fresh fruit instead of fries.
Customers responded, and so did shareholders -- McDonald's stock rose 71 percent during his tenure. After 14 straight months of lower U.S. same-store sales, a key industry barometer, the chain has had sharply higher U.S. sales since last May. For the last three months of 2003 alone, revenue companywide jumped 17 percent to $4.56 billion.
Bell had been the heir apparent since the company promoted him from head of European operations in December 2002 as part of the shake-up that saw CEO Jack Greenberg depart.