Skinner, who began his McDonald's career as a management trainee in 1971, earned a reputation as a turnaround artist, helping the company navigate the negative press generated by the documentary Super Size Me and leading the launch of many winning new products. Skinner was one of the architects of the company's successful "Plan to Win" strategic framework, which emphasized "being better, not just bigger" and included reimaging of restaurants and increasing menu variety. He led McDonald's during a consecutive run of nearly nine years of increasing global comparable sales.
Thompson is a 22-year McDonald's veteran, with a background as an electrical engineer. In his capacity as President and COO, he has directed global strategy and operations for more than 33,000 McDonald's restaurants in 119 countries.
"It will be a seamless transition," according to analyst Peter Saleh, quoted by Bloomberg News. "They're not going to skip a beat going from Jim to Don."
After running McDonald's for seven years, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Skinner, 67, will retire this summer, the company announced. His successor will be fellow McDonald's executive Don Thompson, 48, who became President and Chief Operating Officer of the company in January 2010.