The British brother-in-law of the £12million-a-year ($16million) McDonald’s boss sacked for having an affair at work saidy: ‘He’s been a naughty boy’.
Watford-born Steve Easterbrook, 52, has been fired for a consensual sexual relationship with a fellow employee at the world’s largest fast food chain – which is a sackable offence.
However, McDonald’s today confirmed Mr Easterbrook would still be eligible for six months of severance pay, with a total payout coming to £21million ($27.05m).
Farmer Mark Baxter, 55, who is married to Mr Easterbrook’s sister Joanne said: ‘Looks like Steve has been a naughty boy. We heard on Sunday that he had been fired. We don’t know any other details. My wife keeps in contact but we have not seen him for a while’.
Mark, who owns a 400-acre farm near Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire, said Easterbrook was divorced from wife Susie at around the time he moved to America to become McDonald’s CEO in 2015.
Their three daughters remained with their mother Susie, a part-time estate agent and former training boss at PwC, at the £1.3million ($1.67m) family home in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire.
Last night Mr Easterbrook admitted ‘it’s time to move on’ after an affair with a colleague got him sacked, a farewell email to colleagues has revealed.
He has left the company’s headquarters in Chicago immediately after the illicit relationship emerged.
The father-of-three admitted a grave error in violating a company policy that forbids managers having romantic relationships with any subordinate.
In an email to staff Mr Easterbrook wrote: ‘This was a mistake. Given the values of the company, I agree with the board that it is time for me to move on’.
McDonald’s shares on Wall Street have plunged after the firing of Mr Easterbrook, who went from branch manager to running the company within 25 years.
The board of directors voted for Easterbrook’s departure on Friday after a review of his conduct concluded he had ‘demonstrated poor judgement’.
But details about his relationship, including who it was with and how long for, have not been disclosed by the business.
Mr Easterbrook has credited with turning around McDonald’s fortunes after profits fell by simplifying menus, improving the quality of ingredients and introducing healthier products such as more salads, fresh fruit and juices.
And his rise to the top of the world’s most famous fast food brand was an extraordinary one.
The Brit, an avid supporter of Watford FC and England’s cricket team, joined the company in 1993 as a branch manager and after working his way up to become its UK chief in 2006 and then became president of its northern European business, in charge of 1,800 restaurants.
In 2011 he became boss of Pizza Express and then Wagamama in the UK but then went back to McDonald’s as Chief Brand Office in 2013.
He then became overall boss in 2015, running the business from its $250million headquarters in Chicago earning $16million-a-year [£12million].
He was married to British wife Susie, and the couple have three children. It is not known when they separated but they are believed to have been divorced since he moved to the US.
Under his leadership the company’s shares nearly doubled in value while sales at its US locations stagnated.
Details of Easterbrook’s severance package will be released Monday in a federal filing, according to a company spokesperson.
The 52-year-old executive’s salary was tied to McDonald’s share price. It peaked in 2017 at $21.8million, including $9.1million in incentive-based pay.
He received $15.9million in total compensation last year.
The board named Chris Kempczinski, who recently served as president of McDonald’s USA, as its new president and CEO following Easterbrook’s departure.
Kempczinski was instrumental in the development of McDonald’s strategic plan and oversaw the most comprehensive transformation of the US business in McDonald’s history, Enrique Hernandez, chairman of McDonald’s board, said in a statement.
‘Steve brought me into McDonald’s and he was a patient and helpful mentor,’ Kempczinski said, thanking his predecessor for his contributions.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal on Sunday, Kempczinski said he will maintain Easterbrook’s focus on technology when he takes over as CEO and that he believes the company’s investments will pay off.
‘There isn’t going to be some radical, strategic shift. The plan is working,’ Kempczinski said.
He said he will continue working with franchisees to improve US sales.
‘It’s something we need to solve together,’ he said.
Joe Erlinger, McDonald’s current president of the international operated markets, will take over Kempczinski’s role as president of McDonald’s USA, effective immediately.
Following the disclosure of Easterbrook’s sacking, a labour movement advocating for a $15-an-hour minimum wage and union rights on behalf of fast-food workers, alleged McDonald’s had failed to address a sexual harassment problem at the company.
Tanya Harrell, a McDonald’s worker in New Orleans, said there have been dozens of complaints about the culture at the world’s largest fast food chain.
She said: ‘With the firing of Steve Easterbrook, we now know why. It’s clear McDonald’s culture is rotten from top to bottom. McDonald’s needs to sit down with worker-survivors and put them at the center of any solution’.
McDonald’s has faced allegations in the past year of condoning sexual harassment in the workplace and retaliating against employees who spoke up about it.
In September, scores of local government officials from 31 U.S. states pressured McDonald’s to do a better job of protecting workers from groping, obscene comments and other forms of sexual harassment, adding their voices to an employee-led campaign that has seen walkouts at several stores.
McDonald’s pointed then to an August announcement of a new training program for safe workplaces supported by more than 2,000 franchisees.
Kempczinski said at the time the company and franchisees ‘have a responsibility to take action on this issue and are committed to promoting positive change.’