In late 2002, McDonald's (MCD) incoming chief executive, James Cantalupo, designated Charles Bell as his heir apparent by promoting him to president and chief operating officer. With Cantalupo's sudden death on Apr. 19, apparently of a heart attack, Bell became CEO of the hamburger giant sooner than anyone expected.
At 43, the Australian native represents a new generation at McDonald's. The first grillman to run the company since Fred Turner retired in 1987 -- he started as a crew member at a McDonald's in Sydney at 15 -- Bell also is the first foreigner to head the quintessential American icon.
Although he was No. 2 for only 16 months, analysts and franchisees are confident Bell will be able to step into his new role. They say he deserves as much credit as Cantalupo for Big Mac's comeback in the U.S. Thanks to the new McGriddle breakfast sandwich and the all-white-meat Chicken McNuggets, sales have risen 11 months in a row. Now, it's up to Bell to extend that streak. With ratings at its ABC TV network off by 10% this year, parent Walt Disney (DIS) replaced the network's two top show pickers, Susan Lyne and Lloyd Braun. The two produced such low-rated shows as the comedy I'm with Her and the miniseries Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital. ABC's ratings have been in a long slide -- one reason why 45% of shareholders recently voted against Disney CEO Michael Eisner's reelection to the board. To jump-start ABC, Eisner promoted Anne Sweeney, giving her responsibility for the network in addition to her duties running the Disney Channel and ABC Family Channel. The job of picking ABC's prime-time shows went to Touchstone TV President Stephen McPherson, who oversaw such hits as 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter. Three months after Harry Kraemer Jr. announced plans to resign as chairman and CEO of Baxter International (BAX), the $8.9 billion medical-products company has a new boss. On Apr. 26, Robert Parkinson Jr., 53, will become chairman and CEO of Deerfield (Ill.)-based Baxter. Over 25 years, Parkinson rose to president and chief operating officer of Abbott Laboratories (ABT) before retiring in 2000. Later, he was named dean of Loyola University's business school in Chicago. Kraemer agreed to step aside after a series of lowered earnings forecasts pushed down Baxter's share price. After failing twice to merge with Sony, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is at it again: It's in talks to merge with Sony, which is said to be trying to enlist buyout firms Texas Pacific Group and Providence Equity Partners in the $5 billion deal. Together, MGM and Sony would control Hollywood's largest film library just as digital technology is making these rights ever more valuable. Still unclear is whether MGM has put the company up for sale. It may be using the talks with Sony to draw out other bids. MGM has said in the past it wants to be part of a larger company. It also has hinted that MGM's 70% owner, Kirk Kerkorian, would rather own stock in a larger company than cash out and pay higher taxes. Neither company had a comment. The Federal Communications Commission and NextWave Telecom settled a long-running dispute on Apr. 20. The resolution frees up airwaves much coveted by other wireless carriers. Wireless startup Nextwave won the licenses at auction in 1996 but declared bankruptcy two years later when it had trouble paying the $4.8 billion price tag. After extensive litigation, the two sides agreed that the FCC can resell many of the licenses. Wireless carriers such as Verizon (VZ), Cingular Wireless, T-Mobile, Nextel Communications (NXTL), Sprint PCS (PCS), and Alltel (AT) now have the opportunity to buy access to new airwaves to alleviate congestion on their networks. -- Salesforce.com filed to go public, a move that could help rekindle the IPO market.
-- Janus Capital Group (BA) named Steven Scheid as CEO, replacing Mark Whiston.
-- Leo O'Neill, recently retired president of Standard & Poor's (MHP), died at age 64. On Apr. 21, shares of Motorola (MOT) rocketed 19%, to $19.30, the day after it reported earnings that sharply exceeded investor expectations. Sparked by sizzling cell-phone growth, first-quarter net profit jumped 260%, while sales rose 42% over the year-earlier period.