Don Thompson (executive)

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Don Thompson
Don Thompson,CEO and President of Mcdonalds.jpg
Donald Thompson

(1963-03-30) March 30, 1963 (age 56)
EducationPurdue University, 1984, B.S. (electrical engineering)
OccupationElectrical engineer, Northrop Grumman (1985–1990)
McDonald's Executive (1990–2015)
CEO, McDonald's Corporation (2012–2015)

Donald "Don" Thompson (born March 30, 1963) is an American engineer and business executive who was the president and chief executive of the McDonald's Corporation from 2012 until 2015. He announced on January 28, 2015 that he would retire from the company and leave his position on March 1, 2015 and was succeeded by Steve Easterbrook, the senior executive vice president and chief brand officer.[1] He is currently the CEO of Cleveland Avenue, an investment group and accelerator that focuses on building new food, beverage, and restaurant concepts, which he founded in early 2017.

Early life[edit]

Thompson, who was born in Chicago, grew up near the Cabrini–Green housing project [2][3] was a bright student who started the sixth grade at the age of 10. In seventh grade he began carrying a briefcase to school.[4] Because of gang violence and crime that began to spread through the area in the late 1960s and 1970s, he was later moved by his grandmother to live with relatives in Indianapolis, where he attended North Central High School.[2]

Thompson is a graduate of Purdue University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1984 in electrical engineering.[5] He also holds an honorary doctorate from Excelsior College. Thompson is a brother of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.[6]


Thompson is an electrical engineer by profession. He joined McDonald's in 1990 after working for a military aircraft manufacturer that is now part of Northrop Grumman. At McDonald's, Thompson designed robotic equipment for food transport and made control circuits for cooking.[7] Thompson received a call from a McDonald’s recruiter who was looking for an engineer to design "robotics, control circuitry and feedback loops". He eventually accepted an invitation to visit the McDonald's headquarters in suburban Chicago by an engineer working there. Soon after the visit he was hired and enrolled in the company’s Black Career Development program, classes that McDonald’s has held since the 1970s both to educate all employees.[4]

Having started his career at McDonald's in 1990, Thompson quickly rose on the corporate ladder. By 1992, he was promoted to Project Manager and Staff Director for the Quality Development department. He then switched over to Operations in 1994, spending his first six months learning the basics on how to manage a "McDonald's" restaurant by working at a South Chicago restaurant, moving up from fry cook to shift manager, then assistant manager and then co-manager.[4]

By 1998, Thompson was promoted to regional manager for the San Diego, California Region and oversaw 350 restaurants. He then was promoted to Senior Vice President of the Midwest Division, which he was responsible for the overseeing of 2,200 restaurants. A subsequent promotion resulted in his becoming president of the West Division, where he oversaw operations for 4,000 restaurants.[citation needed]

By January 2005, Thompson, now an Executive Vice President, began to serve as Chief Operations Officer (COO) of all US restaurants. On August 23, 2006, he became the President of McDonald’s USA and McDonald's Restaurants of Canada. In 2007, Thompson stepped into the role of Chief Operating Officer for the global corporation, and on July 1, 2012, he became President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of McDonald's Corp, succeeding outgoing CEO, the retiring Jim Skinner. However Thompson was not the first choice as successor, he was third having won the position when Michael Roberts and Ralph Alvarez quit.[8]

Due to a 4.1 percent decline in customer traffic in 2014, Thompson announced that he was stepping down from his CEO position effective March 1, 2015.[9] In November 2015, it was announced that Thompson joined the board of directors of vegan meat-alternative company Beyond Meat.[10]

Thompson also serves on the board of directors of Ronald McDonald House Charities, Catalyst, and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.[11] He is also a member of Purdue University's board of trustees.[5]


  1. ^ "McDonald's CEO Don Thompson to Retire in March" Fox Business. Retrieved January 28, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Smith, Bruce C. (March 23, 2012). "Purdue grad makes history as first black CEO at McDonald's". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved April 14, 2012.
  3. ^ Harris, Melissa (March 23, 2012). "New McDonald's CEO stays true to his roots". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 14, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c Austen, Ben (Feb 9, 2015). "The Company Man: The Remarkable Rise and Fall of McDonald's CEO". Chicago magazine.
  5. ^ a b "Don Thompson". Purdue University Board of Trustees. Purdue University. Retrieved 2015-01-03.
  6. ^ Company profile
  7. ^ McDonald's new CEO Thompson a study in contrasts Reuters, March 24, 2012
  8. ^ Sonnenfeld, Jeffrey (February 9, 2015). "McDonald's deserves a break today". Fortune. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
  9. ^ McDonald's CEO shakeup lifts stock, USA Today, January 29, 2015
  10. ^ "Vegan company beefs up board with ex-McDonald's CEO". CBS News MoneyWatch. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  11. ^ "2013 CHICAGO UNITED CHICAGO BRIDGE AWARD RECIPIENT". Chicago United. Archived from the original on 2 February 2015. Retrieved 2 February 2015.

External links[edit]

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