Steve Easterbrook, (pictured) 52, dated Denise Paleothodoros, 46, when she was assigned to the McDonald’s account by her PR firm
The British former boss of McDonald’s who was fired for sleeping with an employee had previously escaped censure for another office romance.
Steve Easterbrook, 52, dated Denise Paleothodoros, 46, when she was assigned to the McDonald’s account by her PR firm.
The two-year affair came to light in 2015 but the fast food company concluded the relationship did not violate its policies.
Miss Paleothodoros’s employers, Golin, moved her to another account.
The same year Mr Easterbrook was promoted from head of North Europe to chief executive of the company and moved to Chicago on a salary of £12million a year. His severance package is thought to be worth up to £54million.
He said in an email to employees that the relationship that cost him his job was a ‘mistake’ and not in keeping with the McDonald’s code of conduct.
He signed off on the code last year which bans relationships between bosses and those who work directly or indirectly for them. The identity of the woman has not been revealed.
The Wall Street Journal revealed the second affair yesterday after Mr Easterbrook was photographed for the first time since his shock dismissal on Sunday. The divorced father of four was seen buying a laptop in an Apple store in Chicago where he has a £2million apartment.
Miss Paleothodoros is now the executive director of Golin.
The two-year affair came to light in 2015 but the fast food company concluded the relationship did not violate its policies. Miss Paleothodoros’s employers, Golin, moved her to another account
The firm said that an employee told them about the relationship in 2015 and at the time Mr Easterbrook had ‘no working relationship with our firm’ and did not oversee public relations.
However Miss Paleothodoros was removed from the McDonald’s account to ‘avoid any conflict of interest’. Golin informed McDonald’s, which took no disciplinary action. Miss Paleothodoros said in a statement: ‘Steve and I were in a relationship and that ended amicably a while ago.’
The WSJ also reported that the McDonald’s board of directors began investigating Mr Easterbrook’s more recent affair three weeks ago.
After an internal investigation, the company’s general counsel, Jerry Krulewitch, informed the board and it hired New York City law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz to examine the legal risk.
The investigation concluded that the relationship was ‘short-term and consensual’ but it raised questions about Mr Easterbrook’s judgement and he was fired.
During his time as chief executive Mr Easterbrook doubled the share price of McDonald’s and is credited with revitalising the company. However, the board appeared to have little choice in the era of #MeToo with zero tolerance about misbehaviour.
The day after Mr Easterbrook was fired, the company’s top human resources officer, a close friend of his, suddenly announced he was resigning.
David Fairhurst, 51, said that the ‘time has come for me to move on to my next career challenge’ in a post on social networking site LinkedIn.
Mr Fairhurst is also British and moved his family to the US soon after Mr Easterbrook arrived there.
McDonald’s, which is based in Chicago, has claimed that Mr Fairhurst’s departure had no relationship to Mr Easterbrook’s firing.
Mr Easterbrook grew up in Watford, where he attended the state grammar school.
As a boy, he and a friend would catch a train to Harrow to visit the McDonald’s there, back when the burger chain was still viewed as aspirational.
After training as an accountant with Price Waterhouse, he took his first job at McDonald’s in the 1990s as manager of a branch near his home town on the A41. By 2006, he was head of the UK operation.