Jack Greenberg (60), chairman and chief executive of McDonald’s, will abandon the helm of the planet’s largest burger chain at the end of December – giving a new slant to the adage that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

The news comes within a month or two of Greenberg’s indication he would remain within the Golden Arches until 2005 despite the group’s sales landslide. Seemingly, someone somewhere thought differently.

But no surprises other than the timing of Greenberg’s going. Despite Wall Street’s call for a fresh approach to Big M’s problems, the company is not prone to embracing the unfamilar and has called on 59-year-old former president and vice chairman Jim Cantalupo (twenty-eight years on its payroll) to occupy the hotseat.

It also appointed Charlie Bell, president of its European operations - where there are some 6,000 McDonald’s outlets - as corporate president and chief operating officer, complete with seat on the main board.

Greenberg’s head (with a side dish of fries) has long been demanded by the Wall Street pack, which held him responsible for lack of innovation and sliding profits in seven of the last eight quarters. McDonald’s response to this criticism was retrenchment and last month it announced plans to shutter 175 outlets and quit three countries entirely.

Big Jack offered no explanation for his abrupt decision to quit save that it was time to move on: “In every company’s history, there is a time when it is appropriate to pass the baton and give a new management team the opportunity to lead.”

Data sourced from: Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff