McDonald's needs to shake up board, union fund adviser says

Fri Feb 13, 2015 9:06pm EST
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By Lisa Baertlein

(Reuters) - Union pension fund adviser CtW Investment Group on Friday demanded in a letter to key McDonald's Corp directors that the struggling fast-food chain follow up its recent chief executive officer replacement with a turnover of its board.

The demand from CtW comes two weeks after McDonald's announced that Chief Brand Officer Steve Easterbrook would replace Don Thompson in the top job on March 1 and as unions have been seeking to organize fast-food workers and raise wages. The union pension funds that CtW advises hold a small percentage of McDonald's outstanding shares that are worth $268 million.

CtW Executive Director Dieter Waizenegger, in a letter addressed to board Chairman Andrew McKenna and Governance Committee Chairman Miles White, said the replacement of Thompson fell short of what is required to fix the world's biggest restaurant chain by revenue.

"Returning McDonald's Corp to a path of long-term, profitable growth requires that Mr. Steven Easterbrook's appointment as CEO is followed by a robust refreshment of the board's membership and leadership," Waizenegger wrote in the letter, which was obtained by Reuters.

McDonald's did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

McDonald's, which recently reported one of its worst years in decades, has suffered eight straight months of worldwide same-restaurant sales declines. It is editing bloated menus, experimenting with technology and revamping its advertising to appeal to diners, who increasingly are demanding fresher, healthier food.

McDonald's board, which consists of many long-term and Chicago-area directors, has failed to evolve with the global company's changing circumstances, Waizenegger said.

"We believe it is critical for McDonald's to have strong, independent board leadership. Fresh eyes are essential," said Waizenegger. He took particular aim at McKenna, an octogenarian who has been McDonald's non-executive chairman since April 2004 and a director since 1991.   Continued...

A McDonald's restaurant is pictured in Encinitas, California September 9, 2014.   REUTERS/Mike Blake