McDonald's CEO says Ronald McDonald won't be retired

CHICAGO — McDonald's Corp. Chief Executive Jim Skinner was unequivocal in his support of company mascot Ronald McDonald, who came under fire from two investors at the company's annual meeting Thursday.

"Ronald McDonald is not retiring," Skinner said, prompting the audience to applaud. Skinner added sternly: "He is a force for good. He does not hawk food."

Deborah Lapidus, senior organizer at Corporate Accountability International, had called for the retirement of Ronald McDonald and the end of marketing to children.

At the entrance of the McDonald's campus, costumed activists from Corporate Accountability waved signs at arriving attendees in a reprise of the protest they held Wednesday in downtown Chicago. "Ronald McDonald is a pied piper drawing youngsters all over the world to food that is high in fat, sodium and calories," said Alfred David Klinger, a retired Chicago physician who volunteers with Corporate Accountability International. "On the surface, Ronald is there to give children enjoyment in all sorts of way with toys, games and food. But Ronald McDonald is dangerous, sending insidious messages to young people."

The Boston organization, which calls itself a nonprofit corporate watchdog, has spent the past two months mounting a "Retire Ronald" campaign.

Lapidus' remarks during the meeting were met with boos from the audience.

Later in the meeting, a retired physician also asked for the company to stop using Ronald McDonald. This time, audience members called out, "No, no," from their seats.

Other shareholders were effusive in their praise of the company, including one man who said he likes McDonald's coffee and requested that a decaf latte be added to the menu.

Chief operating officer Don Thompson said demand for decaf specialty, espresso-based drinks appeared to be tepid when the company studied the issue a few years ago, but that McDonald's could revisit the matter.

A "say on pay" proposal failed to pass at McDonald's annual shareholders meeting.

The resolution, which would have given investors an advisory vote on executive compensation, garnered just 40.8 percent support in a preliminary tally at the meeting, held Thursday morning at McDonald's headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill.

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