Charlie Bell, who began his McDonald's Corp career as a part-time worker in a suburban Sydney restaurant and later became chief executive of the fast-food icon, died yesterday of colon cancer in his native Australia. He was 44.
Bell, who died at his Sydney home, was diagnosed with cancer last May, only a month after ascending to the top job.
He left the fast-food giant in November, after several rounds of treatment. McDonald's announced his death on Sunday evening in the US.
"It is with great sadness that I pass on the news that our dear friend Charlie Bell passed away peacefully ... surrounded by his family," Guy Russo, McDonald's Australia Ltd chief executive, said in a statement. "We have lost a true friend as well as a great leader of our organization."
"Charlie Bell gave his all to McDonald's," said Andrew McKenna, chairman of the company's board. "Even during his hospitalization and chemotherapy, Charlie led this company with pride and determination."
Bell was replaced as CEO by Jim Skinner, the US-based company's third CEO in a year. Bell was chosen to follow former chief James Cantalupo, who died of a heart attack last April.
Early last month, Bell and his family returned to Sydney where he was continuing his cancer therapy.
No funeral arrangements have yet been made, McDonald's spokesman Walt Riker said.
Bell was managing director of McDonald's Australia from 1993 to 1999, then president of McDonald's Europe until December 2002, when he was named president and chief operating officer and a board member of McDonald's.
Under Cantalupo and Bell, McDonald's staged a rebound in sales as the company slowed the pace of its new store openings, added popular new salads and breakfast items to its menus and shed noncore sections of its business.
Last month, McDonald's spent US$300,000 to fly Bell and his family to Australia on a private, medically equipped jet, and agreed to ship their belongings and buy the Bells' Illinois home. The company also plans to pay any tax bills for the arrangement, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.