Tuesday, April 20, 2004

It's not that McDonald's CEO died, it's how he died 

Jim Cantalupo, McDonald's CEO, died yesterday of an apparent heart attack. Cantalupo had done a great job building confidence on Wall Street, and at the time of his death was leading McDonald's into a new, and presumably healthier, future.

Interestingly, nobody in the business press, at least according to my fairly quick review of the mainstream coverage of Cantalupo's death and the management succession at McDonald's, thinks that Cantalupo's cause of death -- suddenly, from a heart attack -- is itself a public relations problem for the company. Maybe the silence is out of respect for Cantalupo's family, but I think it must be a real issue. If the CEO of a pharmaceutical company died from an adverse drug reaction, would the press stay equally as silent?

Compare the McDonald's case to the controversy that swirled around the discovery back in February that the Chairman of Smith & Wesson, James Joseph Minder, had served time for armed robbery forty years ago. Minder served his time and turned his life around sufficiently to become the chairman of a public company, becoming quite the textbook case for the rehabilitation of criminals. Why the controversy, unless perhaps Minder hadn't used Smith & Wesson handguns back in the day, as it were?


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