AR-News: McDonald's Corp. CEO Charlie Bell has cancer surgery after taking over from dead CEO Jim Cantalupo

THots8421 at THots8421 at
Sat May 8 17:53:45 EDT 2004

OAK BROOK, Ill. (AP) - McDonald's Corp. CEO Charlie Bell told employees in a recorded message Friday that he was ``feeling good'' and anticipating a full recovery after cancer surgery two days earlier, the company said.

In its first update on Bell's condition since a brief Wednesday announcement of his operation for colorectal cancer, McDonald's said the 43-year-old Bell is in regular communication with his management team and others at the company.

Bell sent a recorded message and e-mail to all corporate and U.S. employees, according to spokesman Walt Riker, saying that he is ``feeling good, resting comfortably and looking forward to a complete recovery. In fact, I am antsy to get back to work but I will follow doctor's orders and recuperate fully before returning to the office.''

The chief executive added: ``I have tremendous faith in our management team to continue the great momentum that is driving our results.''

The announcement that Bell had cancer came just 16 days after McDonald's was stunned by the unexpected death of his predecessor, Jim Cantalupo, from an apparent heart attack.

The company also is facing a public-relations challenge from Friday's nationwide release of the documentary ``Super Size Me,'' in which filmmaker Morgan Spurlock goes on a McDonald's-only eating binge for 30 days to dramatize America's growing obesity problem, gaining 24.5 pounds.

McDonald's business, however, continues to flourish following a U.S. turnaround that began in the spring of 2003. The hamburger giant is expected to report a 13th consecutive month of higher comparable U.S. sales when it announces monthly results on Monday.

Analysts say Bell must soon designate a chief operating officer, his former post, since McDonald's remains without a No. 2 executive in the wake of Cantalupo's death. Possible candidates include McDonald's U.S. president Mike Roberts, vice chairman Jim Skinner and chief restaurant operations officer Claire Babrowski.

Some of the potential choices are a generation older than Bell, but Morningstar analyst Carl Sibilski said he doesn't think age will be a big factor in the selection.

``The characteristics of a No. 2 would be somebody who has a broad knowledge of the McDonald's system from Asia to North America to Europe, and somebody who could run a restaurant operation,'' he said. ``It sounds like they have at least a couple of people who qualify.''

The company has said Bell will return to work after a brief recuperation period but has not addressed whether he will attend the May 20 annual shareholders' meeting at headquarters in Oak Brook.

Bell's cancer had not been diagnosed at the time of his April 19 appointment to the top job, according to Riker.

An unidentified McDonald's executive told the Chicago Tribune this week that Bell had complained to colleagues of feeling ill ever since late February when he traveled to Beijing. The Tribune quoted the executive Thursday as saying the illness was initially thought to be food poisoning and that Bell had undergone four series of tests before cancer was diagnosed.

McDonald's shares fell 56 cents to close at $26.71 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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May 7 2004 7:17PM 

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