Bell Succeeds Cantalupo at McDonald’s

CHICAGO McDonald’s wasted no time appointing a successor after the unexpected death on Monday of its chairman and CEO, Jim Cantalupo, from an apparent heart attack.

The Oak Brook, Ill., company bestowed the CEO title on president and COO Charlie Bell.

Bell, 43, was seen as Cantalupo’s eventual successor, having worked as president of Europe and president of Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa during his 20-year career at McDonald’s.

The board also named its presiding director, Andrew McKenna, 74, as non-executive chairman.

“We can never replace Jim’s brilliance or leadership, but we will honor him by continuing his passion for McDonald’s,” read a statement issued by the company’s board. “Charlie Bell has worked side by side with Jim during these past 16 months to revitalize McDonald’s all over the world. He is ideally suited and prepared to continue Jim’s remarkable focus and discipline in our business.”

Cantalupo had been with McD’s for nearly 30 years. He rejoined the company from retirement in January 2003 and has been behind McD’s recent revitalization. During his tenure, the company focused on improving its menu and introduced successful new products, including a line of salads in the U.S. Also under his guidance, McD’s launched its first global advertising campaign. That effort, from Omnicom Group’s Heye & Partner in Unterhaching, Germany, aimed to appeal to younger consumers with offbeat visuals, a hip-hop soundtrack and the tagline, “I’m lovin’ it.”

The company is expected to launch global advertising initiatives behind its Big Mac sandwich and French fries later this year. The Big Mac effort will be created by Leo Burnett Worldwide, which handles kids and promotional marketing in the U.S. and general advertising in several international markets. DDB Chicago, McD’s lead U.S. agency, will handle the French-fries effort.

“Jim Cantalupo was a great champion of advertising, a demanding and inspiring client and a lovely man,” said Leo Burnett CEO Linda Wolf in a statement. “His insight and devotion has had a profound impact on his company, its people and the industry. He will be missed by all of us at Leo Burnett.”

McD’s global advertising account is estimated at $1.3 billion; about $700 million of that is spent on advertising in the U.S.