Charlie Bell (businessman)

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Charles Hamilton Bell AO
Charlie Bell promoting McDonald's
Born(1960-11-07)7 November 1960
Kingsford, Australia
Died17 January 2005(2005-01-17) (aged 44)
EducationOur Lady of the Rosary Primary School, Marcellin College Randwick
OccupationPresident and CEO, McDonald's
TitleOrder of Australia
Parent(s)Mother: Margaret Father: Charlie
WebsiteThe Charlie Bell Scholarship Program

Charles Hamilton "Charlie" Bell AO (7 November 1960 – 17 January 2005) was an Australian business executive. He served as president of the American-based fast-food chain McDonald's from December 2002, and additionally as chief executive officer from April to November 2004. Bell was the first non-American and the youngest person to hold that position, and the first to be CEO from starting at the bottom of the chain as a crew member in a restaurant.


Bell grew up in Sydney, Australia, and attended Marcellin College Randwick. Bell began his career at McDonald's when he was 15 in 1976, working at the Kingsford restaurant in Sydney earning $3.55 an hour. Peter Ritchie, the first managing director of McDonald's Australia said of him "He was ready to tell us how the place should have been run from 15 onwards".[1] Bell was assistant manager at 18, and at 19, he became the youngest store manager in McDonald's Australia. At age 29 he was on the board of the Australian subsidiary, becoming its managing director at 33.

He quickly rose through the ranks of corporate McDonald's. Bell was appointed President and Chief Operating Officer, when Jim Cantalupo (former McDonald's International CEO) returned to the company on 1 January 2003 as Chairman and CEO of corporate McDonald's to lead a turnaround effort. Under Cantalupo's predecessor Jack M. Greenberg, the company suffered earnings declines in each of the last seven-quarters. Shareholders were initially not impressed with Cantalupo and Bell's appointments as it suggested that the company was "inbred".[2] However, Cantalupo "devised a plan" which included "accelerating the introduction of healthier foods, such as salads", and Bell's implementation of this policy led to the company's recovery in the succeeding 12 months.[2] When Cantalupo died suddenly on 19 April 2004, Bell was appointed CEO while retaining his title of president.[3][4]

Bell introduced the McCafé to McDonald's

During Bell's short time as CEO of the company, its greatest problem was criticism of the healthiness of its food, which was exacerbated by the release of the documentary film Super Size Me. Bell led efforts to add healthier choices to the McDonald's menu, and allow parents to substitute juice and apple slices for fries and soft drinks for their children. The "Supersize" option was also eliminated. During his brief tenure, his initiatives resulted in a successful turnaround in McDonald's fortunes,[5][6] with the stock price rising 24%.[7] Bell was also responsible for introducing the McCafé, a coffeehouse franchise that serves gourmet coffee, cakes and pastries and premium teas.[8][9]

Illness and death[edit]

Soon after becoming CEO, Bell was diagnosed with colon cancer. He had surgery on 7 May 2004, just over two weeks after taking over as CEO. He continued working for a time, but eventually resigned on 22 November 2004 to focus on the disease, which became incurable. Bell was succeeded by vice chairman Jim Skinner as CEO and by Michael Roberts as president.

In December 2004, McDonald's paid $300,000 for the terminally-ill Bell to be returned to Australia in a specially equipped jet. He died shortly afterwards at his apartment in Sydney with his family around him.[7]

The deaths of Cantalupo and Bell, who died relatively young, have led some[who?] to wonder whether being an executive at a company which produced allegedly unhealthy food led to their illnesses, particularly as Bell was known to eat McDonald's products often. Similarly, two successive CEOs of Wendy's, Jim Near and Gordon Teter, died in their fifties of heart attacks. It is not known whether Bell's diet contributed to his cancer.[10]


Bell was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in June 2005;[11] however, the award was made retrospective to 17 June 2004.[12]

Other appointments[edit]

Bell held the following appointments:[13]


  1. ^ "McDonald's tragedy turns Kingsford boy into burger king". The Sydney Morning Herald. 21 April 2004. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  2. ^ a b Reed, Christopher (22 April 2004). "Burger king who revived chain with salads". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  3. ^ Sieger, Maggie (1 December 2003). "CHARLIE BELL, MCDONALD'S: From Oz, Shaking Up A U.S. Icon". Time. Chicago. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  4. ^ Bhatnagar, Parija (19 April 2004). "Sad day at McDonald's". CNN. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  5. ^ "Big Mac's Makeover: McDonald's Turned Around". The Economist. 14 October 2004. Retrieved 8 April 2008.
  6. ^ "McChief: Charlie Bell's Rise to the Top". 5 June 2003. Archived from the original on 8 August 2003. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  7. ^ a b Warner, Melanie (17 January 2005). "Charles Bell, 44, Former Chief Executive of McDonald's, Dies". The New York Times.
  8. ^ "Australian chief breaks tradition at McDonald's - Business". 20 September 2004. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  9. ^ Fraser, Jane (18 January 2005). "Top of the food chain". The Australian. Archived from the original on 19 January 2005. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  10. ^ "Charlie Bell: a 'fat and happy' boy from Oz - Business". The Sydney Morning Herald. 20 January 2005. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  11. ^ "Bell, Charles H. - Biographical Dictionary". 31 July 2007. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  12. ^ "It's an Honour - Honours - Search Australian Honours". Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  13. ^ "McDonald's Former President and CEO Charlie Bell Dies of Cancer". 17 January 2005. Archived from the original on 2 March 2009. Retrieved 1 December 2015.

External links[edit]

Business positions
Preceded by
Jim Cantalupo
CEO of McDonald's
Succeeded by
Jim Skinner