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Mcdonalds ceo dies of health problems

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McDonald's chief Cantalupo dies
From staff and wire reports
Jim Cantalupo, McDonald's (MCD) chairman and CEO, died Monday morning, apparently of a heart attack. He was 60.

Jim Cantalupo took over at McDonald's in January 2003.
By John Zich, USA TODAY

The heart attack occurred at the company's annual owner/operator convention in Orlando, McDonald's said.

"Our entire McDonald's system mourns this tragic loss, and our thoughts and prayers are with Jim's wife, Joann, and his family. Our deepest sympathies go out to them," said Andrew McKenna, presiding director of the McDonald's board.

"Jim was a brilliant man who brought tremendous leadership, energy and passion to his job. He made an indelible mark on McDonald's system," McKenna said.

Cantalupo emerged from retirement to be named chairman and CEO in January 2003 after a major management shake-up. He had worked for McDonald's 28 years.

At the time, the company was struggling to cope with falling profit in a saturated hamburger market, poor service and the fallout from outbreaks of mad cow disease.

Cantalupo is credited with helping turn around the fast food company.

In an interview with USA TODAY in December, he said: "When I took this job, some people sent me condolences instead of congratulations. I'm not declaring victory yet. I'm declaring momentum."

In little over a year, he helped turn the company around with a focus on improving operations and menu offerings.

Under Cantalupo, McDonald's slowed its breakneck expansion pace, closed hundreds of restaurants, and added menu items, including an entree-sized salad, all-white-meat chicken McNuggets and the McGriddle breakfast sandwich. Just last week, the company announced the rollout of Adult Happy Meals, with salad, bottled water and a pedometer to encourage people to walk more.

The company also introduced a new global advertising campaign, adopting a slogan "I'm lovin' it" meant to appeal to younger and hipper consumers. Ads show people break dancing, diving into the ocean with a surfboard or speeding down a water slide, all to a soundtrack of hip-hop and other popular musical forms.

"We don't want McDonald's to look and feel 50 years old to our customers," Cantalupo said last month in a speech to Wall Street analysts, noting that the company will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. "We want McDonald's to be forever young."

The changes helped McDonald's in February post the highest sales gain in 30 years at U.S. restaurants open more than a year.

Cantalupo joined McDonald's as controller in 1974. He took charge of its international business in 1987 and led it through a dramatic expansion from about 2,350 restaurants outside the United States to the current total of approximately 15,000 in 120 countries.

McDonald's is the world's largest restaurant chain, with more than 30,000 restaurants and 400,000 employees.

McDonald's could not immediately say who was taking over Cantalupo's responsibilities. "We're focusing on Mr. Cantalupo and his family," said McDonald's spokeswoman Anna Rozenich.

Speculation is that President and Chief Operating Charlie Bell has been groomed to take over the top job. Bell, an Australian, has also been instrumental in McDonald's turnaround.

Nevertheless, news of Cantalupo's death sent McDonald's stock down 2.6% in early trading. The move helped pull the Dow Jones industrial average lower at the start of trading.

"The worries are that perhaps there may not be a strong No. 2, since he was known as the one with the strong vision," said Art Hogan, chief market analyst for investment adviser Jefferies & Co. "When you have a turnaround focused on one person, there will be a short-term disappointment" in the stock.

Cantalupo assumed the reins at McDonald's after former CEO Jack Greenberg announced his retirement at the end of 2002 just nine months after the company had asked him to stay on until 2005.

Many industry analysts had been urging Greenberg's ouster for a number of months and generally greeted Cantalupo's accession happily.

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