OAK BROOK, Illinois: Purveyor of burgers to the planet McDonald's Restaurants has bid an abrupt farewell to its second-in-command Mike Roberts.

The company's president and chief operating officer resigned with immediate effect to be replaced by Ralph Alvarez (51), most recently president of the North America unit.

The fast food titan and its executives are zip-lipped about the unexpected departure, save for the release of Roberts's email to staff: "It's with deep regret that I'm announcing my resignation, a decision that I believe is right for me, my family, my career, and the company at this time."

There is speculation, however, that Roberts' ambition may have been frustrated when Jim Skinner took over the ceo role shortly before the untimely death of Charlie Bell [WAMN: 17-Jan-05].

Roberts (55), a 29-year McDonald's veteran, has been instrumental in revitalizing the domestic business through extending store opening hours, introducing premium priced foods to the menu and working to reshape the company's junk food image in the face of the nation's obesity furore.

Comments consultant and former McDonald's executive Richard Adams: "Unless there's some extraordinary event, it's a real negative for them to lose their number two man."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff