McDonald’s said on Wednesday evening that Jim Skinner, its chief executive, will retire at the end of June and will be replaced by Don Thompson, the company’s chief operating officer and president.

Mr Skinner, 67, has worked for McDonald’s, the world’s largest restaurant chain, for 41 years and has been chief executive since 2004. During that time, he has helped the company expand internationally, broadened the menu to include more breakfast and beverage options and modernised the restaurants.

McDonald’s last year recorded its strongest comparable store sales in the US since 2006, and is planning to invest $2.9bn this year to open another 1,300 outlets including nearly 175 in the US, 250 across Europe and 250 in China.

“Doing what’s right for our customers and our business has driven my passion as CEO of McDonald’s,” Mr Skinner said in a statement.

McDonald’s has continued to face criticism from health and animal rights groups, but in recent years Mr Skinner has helped soften the company’s image by working to improve its food sourcing and quality.

Mr Thompson, 48, is a 22-year McDonald’s veteran and most recently has been in charge of global strategy and operations. Previously he spent four years as head of the company’s US division.

Shares of McDonald’s fell 0.1 per cent to $96.60 in after-hours trading. The company’s stock price has climbed more than 200 per cent since Mr Skinner took the top job in 2004. McDonald’s said Mr Skinner would also leave its board of directors.

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