Bell, Charles 1960–
Chief executive officer and president, McDonald's Corporation
Born: November 7, 1960, in Kingsford, Australia.
Family: Son of a travel agent (name unknown) and Margaret (maiden name unknown); married; children: one.
Career: McDonald's Corporation, 1975–1979, crew member; 1979–1983, store manager; 1983–1985, manager, McDonald's Europe development company; 1985–1990, operations director and regional manager, McDonald's Europe development company; 1990–1993, vice president of marketing; 1993–1999, managing director of McDonald's Australia; 1999–2001, president of Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa group; 2001–2002, president of McDonald's Europe; 2003, president and COO; 2004–, CEO and president.
Address: McDonald's Corporation, 1 Kroc Drive, Oak Brook, Illinois 60523-2275; http://www.mcdonalds.com.
■ Charles Bell began working for McDonald's in Australia in 1975 as a teenager. A hard worker who was highly ambitious, he rose quickly through the ranks, becoming the youngest McDonald's manager ever in 1979. By 1993 Bell was running the Australian operation, which became a model for the company's global operations. In 2002 he came to the United States to become the corporation's chief operating officer. An affable and shrewd manager, Bell was a major player under the CEO James Cantalupo in reversing McDonald's decline in the early 2000s. In 2004, at 43 years of age, Bell became one of the youngest CEOs in the world when he replaced Cantalupo as president and CEO of McDonald's. He was also the company's first foreign CEO.
"LIFE IS NOT A REHEARSAL": RISE OF A McAUSSIE
Charles Bell was born in Kingsford, Australia, on November 7, 1960. His father was a travel agent; his mother, Margaret Bell, lived in the same Sydney suburb through the early 2000s. In 1975 Bell was a student at Marcellin College of Randwick, a select Catholic boy's school, where he learned religious instruction, teamwork, and discipline as well as some technical training. Not far from Marcellin was one of the first McDonald's outlets opened in Australia, of which Bell learned from a friend while riding home on the bus. He applied for a position serving hamburgers and was hired. Although his first night was so difficult that he told his parents he felt like quitting, he did not. Bell stuck with his job, dressing hamburgers, unloading trucks, and cleaning restrooms.
Having opened its first outlet in Sydney at the end of 1971, McDonald's Australia was a fledgling operation which failed to turn a profit through most of the 1970s. Visiting the Kingsford outlet, the Australian manager Peter Ritchie met the young Bell and quickly sized him up as a future company leader. Bell readily agreed with Ritchie with regard to his own prospects; as Ritchie told the Sydney Morning Herald, "He was ready to tell us how the place should have been run from 15 onwards" (April 21, 2004). Bell was often arrogant and upfront about his ambition, but in a charming, irreverent Australian way. Ritchie saw not a ranting fool but a potential leader.
The aspiring young manager gained a few lessons in cross-cultural operations during the 1970s. Helping to lead an American company in Australia, where businessmen were not seen as the heroes they were in the United States, proved to be a challenge. Unions were much stronger and taxes higher. The Shop Assistants' Union sought to organize Bell's workers; the union took McDonald's to court and struck the company's food suppliers, denouncing McDonald's for maintaining unfair labor practices, serving rotten plastic food, and even for subverting Australian culture. Ritchie sued the union for defamation and won through his presentation of McDonald's Australia as an Australian company run by Australians. Bell learned from Ritchie how to counter the anti-Americanism that had stung McDonald's: by marketing the company as a local one. Enough Australians were convinced for McDonald's Australia to finally begin earning a profit in the early 1980s.
Such experiences would help Bell when he was posted to Europe in 1983 as operations director and regional manager of McDonald's European development in Frankfurt. The first European McDonald's opened in Amsterdam in 1971; Britain and Germany would eventually become the company's leading markets, followed by France. In 1993, at age 32, Bell became managing director of McDonald's Australia, which he turned into a model subsidiary, with productivity higher than any other subsidiary and sales above the company's global average. Cantalupo, who through the 1990s headed McDonald's International, was enormously proud of Bell's accomplishments and told the Business Review Weekly that "Australia is one of our top countries around the world" (June 5, 2003)—and that Bell deserved much of the credit. Cantalupo went on to praise the example Bell and his friend and successor Guy Russo set, making McDonald's Australia the training ground even for American executives: "We've paraded a lot of people to Australia, even from the United States, to recalibrate our standards, to see what McDonald's looks like in the ideal environment" (June 5, 2003).
"IF YOU WANT TO BE THE POPE, YOU HAVE TO COME TO ROME"
Even before Cantalupo became CEO, as early as 1996, he knew of Bell's abilities and wanted him to go to Illinois—to McDonald's headquarters. Bell, however, a conservative Australian with strong family ties as well as strong political ties to his friend Prime Minister John Howard, did not want to emigrate. Cantalupo sought to persuade Bell that only by coming to America could he make the impact that he had the potential to make; even the Asian operation would not be moved to Sydney. But Bell, a "dinkum Aussie" through and through, did not want to relocate. "If Bell wanted to be Pope, he would have to live in Rome," said Cantalupo in an article in Business Review Weekly (June 5, 2003). Bell went to Illinois in 1999.
From Oak Brook, Illinois, Bell oversaw McDonald's Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa group and was then put in charge of McDonald's Europe in 2001. Bell's operations in China, where McDonald's outlets marketed spicy chicken burgers and wings, proved particularly profitable. No sooner had Bell taken over the European operation than he had to confront the ramifications of "mad cow disease" in Britain. By 2002 McDonald's was encountering further trouble. In spite of McDonald's International's healthy growth, the parent company's markets in the United States were reaching a saturation point. By 2002 worldwide sales and profits were both dropping, as was the value of McDonald's stock. Customers complained of cold food, slow service, and a lack of cleanliness. The board called James Cantalupo out of retirement and elected him CEO, effective January 2003.
"I'M LOVIN' IT": BELL'S TURNAROUND STYLE
Cantalupo turned to Bell, appointing him chief operating officer that same month. As COO Bell became not only Cantalupo's right-hand man but also his heir apparent. Bell was placed at the heart of Cantalupo's 2003–2004 turnaround marketing strategy. If McDonald's was to save its brand, it was believed, the company would have to change its controversial and tarnished image. In April 2003 Bell launched the company's worldwide "I'm Lovin' It" media campaign. Pop singer Justin Timberlake was enlisted to help persuade millions of disillusioned consumers that McDonald's was a new company. The goal was to win back customers and revitalize the McDonald's brand.
Bell's management style was quite similar to Cantalupo's in that he was affable but very direct. "I can be as subtle as a brick through a window when I need to be," he told the Australian 's Rodney Dalton; "I think Australians can be very blunt and I sort of use that to my advantage where necessary" (May 26, 2003). He and Cantalupo would show up at McDonald's outlets and hand the managers cards evaluating their performances. Bell showed zero tolerance for dirty bathrooms, cold food, and slow, rude service. Having started at the bottom, Bell easily perceived that many managers and public-relations workers had lost touch with their customers. He voiced this perception in a candid comment in Business Review Weekly : "A lot of marketing people can get too theoretical in their meeting rooms so I take them to the real world and say, 'This is what it's all about'" (June 5, 2003). In the same article Bell related how he would take his out-of-touch managers to the growing city of Blacktown, 30 miles from the heart of Sydney. In Blacktown he would tell the managers that the practical, upwardly mobile homeowners of Blacktown were their real customers, and not the monied elites of Sydney, whom Bell called the well-dressed people "who wear black lycra at lunch down at the Crow's Nest Hotel."
Bell waged more than a public-relations campaign. He and Cantalupo cut back on expansion in favor of improved service. They attempted to respond to the charge that McDonald's served unhealthy food by introducing menus featuring salads and other leaner cuisine. Several hundred outlets, mostly overseas, were closed. By the middle of 2003 the price of McDonald's stock was on the rise. Bell shared in the praise given to Cantalupo, and many believed that within three or four years he would become his successor. The coronation proved to be much more sudden.
McPRESIDENT OF THE WORLD
On April 19, 2004, Jim Cantalupo died from a heart attack at the age of 60. Some feared that his death would be a serious setback for the company. How could McDonald's profess to market healthy food when its own CEO had died possibly as a result of bearing too much fat? The board quickly named Bell chief executive officer of McDonald's Corporation, and the company seen as the very symbol of American globalization was now led by an Australian. Overnight Bell rocketed from relative obscurity to a position as one of the most influential Australians in the world, in a class with Rupert Murdoch and Mel Gibson. There seemed little doubt that he would continue to follow in the footsteps of his mentor, Cantalupo.
Concern about the company's future was reinforced when Bell underwent surgery and subsequent chemotherapy for colorectal cancer in May 2004, only two weeks after becoming CEO. Questions also remained, however, as to whether Bell would succeed in maintaining Cantalupo's turnaround strategy. Critics and pessimists felt that the company's revival was a mere illusion resulting from global economics and changes set in place by Cantalupo's predecessor, Jeff Greenberg. They pointed out that the youthful Bell, 43, had virtually no American experience and no career experience outside McDonald's, aside from his having headed a task force on small business for Prime Minister Howard. Optimists, however, believed Bell, who knew every facet of the company and its worldwide operations, to be the perfect man for the job. Who better to reinvent the McDonald's brand, which would depend more than ever on global markets, than an international executive?
See also entry on McDonald's Corporation in International Directory of Company Histories.
sources for further information
Arndorfer, James B., "Greenberg Resigns: McD's Shuffle Signals Bell as Heir Apparent; Europe Prez in Line to Succeed Cantalupo," Advertising Age, December 9, 2002.
Buckley, Neil, "McDonald's Earnings Looking 12 Percent Healthier," Financial Times (London), October 23, 2003.
Cock, Anna, "Australian Given Key to Golden Arches," Melbourne Herald-Sun, April 21, 2004.
Dalton, Rodney, "Bell to Ring In New Era for Macca's," Australian, May 26, 2003.
Day, Sherri, "McDonald's Chief Stresses Food Safety," New York Times, May 23, 2003.
Elliott, Stuart, "McDonald's Campaign Embraces a Loving Theme," New York Times, June 12, 2003.
Friedman, Thomas L., The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization, New York, N.Y.: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2000.
Gibbs, Stephen, and Caroline Overton, "McDonald's Tragedy Turns Kingsford Boy into New Burger King," Sydney Morning Herald, April 21, 2004.
Gibson, Richard, "McDonald's Is Recuperating, but Full Recovery a Way's Off?" Wall Street Journal, December 9, 2003.
Guy, Sandra, "Running McD an Inside Job," Chicago Sun-Times, December 8, 2002.
Herman, Eric, "Australian Bell Appointed New CEO of McDonald's," Chicago Sun-Times, April 20, 2004.
Horovitz, Bruce, "It's Back to Basics for McDonald's," USA Today, May 21, 2003.
——, "McDonald's CEO Could Be One to Copy—or Console," USA Today, December 23, 2003.
Love, John F., McDonald's: Behind the Arches, New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books, 1995.
Lusetich, Robert, Vanessa Walker, and Blair Speedy, "Aussie the Biggest Mac," Australian, April 21, 2004.
Patrick, Aaron, "Burger Meister," Business Review Weekly (Australia), June 5, 2003.
——, "McChief: Charlie Bell's Rise to the Top," Business Review Weekly (Australia), June 5, 2002.
Serwer, Andrew E., "McDonald's Conquers the World," Fortune, October 17, 1994, pp. 103–104, 106, 108, 112, 114, 116.
"Wannabe Boss Now McDonald's Head Honcho," Sydney Morning Herald, April 20, 2004.
—David Charles Lewis
Charles Bell, physiologist and anatomist, was one of the founders of the field now called physiological psychology. He was born in Edinburgh in 1774, the son of the Reverend William Bell, and died in Worcestershire on a journey to London in 1842.
Bell studied anatomy and surgery with his elder and already famous brother John. He also studied painting and drawing and became well-known for his anatomical illustrations—and, indeed, for his paintings. While still in his twenties he published studies on anatomy and was established as a brilliant lecturer and demonstrator in anatomy as well as a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
At the age of 30, he moved to London, where he soon became director of the famous Hunterian School of Medicine. At the formation of London University this school was discontinued and Bell accepted the chair of physiology in the new institution. At length, in the hope of securing more time for research, he returned to Edinburgh to accept the chair of surgery there. During his London period Bell was knighted by George iv and given the honorary degree of m.d. by the University of Göttingen.
Bell’s greatest contribution to knowledge was his discovery of the structural and functional discreteness of the motor and sensory nerves.
The modern physiological psychologist so clearly recognizes that the response mechanism involves receptors, sensory nerves, the central nervous system, motor nerves, and effectors that he finds it hard to remember how recent this knowledge is. Galen, Descartes, Swammerdam, Thomas Willis, Robert Whytt, Stephen Hales, and others made early contributions to the knowledge of the reflex arc, but when Bell began his work, peripheral nerves were generally believed to transmit promiscuously the powers of motion and sensation. Bell’s experiments on this subject were made by laying bare the roots of the spinal nerves of living animals and demonstrating experimentally that the posterior (dorsal) nerve roots are exclusively sensory and the anterior (ventral) roots are exclusively motor in function [seeNERVOUS SYSTEM]. This discovery was reported by Bell in a monograph that was printed in 1811 under the title Idea of a New Anatomy of the Brain: Submitted for the Observation of His Friends. He had been lecturing on the facts reported in the monograph to large classes in London for some years before it was published.
Through the years there has been some controversy concerning Bell’s priority in this discovery. The eminent French physiologist Franois Magendie independently published on this subject in 1822, but he later admitted Bell’s priority. The great principle of the structural and functional discreteness of the motor and sensory nerves is therefore properly called Bell’s Law. However, the term Bell–Magendie Law, which is also frequently used, does name the two most important early investigators of this phenomenon.
Bell was the first scientist to enunciate in a complete way the so-called doctrine of the specific energy of sensory nerves. The name “specific nerve energies” was coined later, in 1826, by the eminent German physiologist Johannes Müller. The nub of this doctrine, as Müller put it, is that human beings are directly aware, not of external objects, but rather of the activity of their own nerves [seeSenses]. In 1811, more than a decade before Müller wrote on this subject, Bell clearly stated:
It is admitted that neither bodies nor the images of bodies enter the brain. … If light, pressure, galvanism, or electricity produce vision, we must conclude that the idea in the mind is the result of an action excited in the eye or in the brain, not of anything received, though caused by an impression from without. The operations of the mind are confined not by the limited nature of things created, but by the limited number of our organs of sense. ( 1911, pp. 18,22)
This view, in a modern, modified scientific form, is still one of the foundation stones of physiological psychology and sensory physiology.
Bell was the first physiologist to demonstrate in an adequate way the parity of the muscle sense with the five senses of antiquity. He was possibly the first physiologist to give a clear theoretical and experimental demonstration of the reciprocal innervation of antagonistic muscles. His concept of the “sensory circle” anticipated in some ways the modern concept of cybernetics as it is applied to the control of muscles in adaptive behavior.
Bell also made important contributions to the understanding of the human expression of the emotions. He first published on this topic in 1806. Darwin, in his book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872), praised Bell’s work in this field.
Bell was the author in 1833 of one of the famous Bridgewater Treatises, The Hand: Its Mechanism and Vital Endowments as Evincing Design. In this interesting book he makes many important observations, such as a discussion of the role of muscle sensibility in what is commonly called touch.
Bell also published medical works. A special distortion of one side of the face is called Bell’s palsy.
However, his chief fame rests on his clear demonstration that sensory and motor functions are carried on in anatomically different sets of nerves. For this he has been classed with Harvey as one of the world’s greatest contributors to physiological science.
[See also the biography of MÜller, Johannes.]
(1811) 1911 Idee einer neuen Hirnanatomie; Idea of a New Anatomy of the Brain. Original text and German translation. Leipzig: Barth. → The English version was reprinted in 1936 by Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore.
(1833) 1865 The Hand: Its Mechanism and Vital Endowments as Evincing Design. 7th ed. London: Pickering; Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard.
Boring, Edwin G. (1929) 1950 A History of Experimental Psychology. 2d ed. New York: Appleton.
Carmichael, Leonard 1926 Sir Charles Bell: A Contribution to the History of Physiological Psychology. Psychological Review 33:188–217.
Darwin, Charles (1872) 1901 The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Edited by Francis Darwin. London: Murray; New York: Appleton.
(b. Edinburgh, Scotland, November 1774; d. Hallow, Worcestershire, England, 28 April 1842)
Bell introduced new methods of determining the functional anatomy of the nervous system. For the spinal and cranial nerves he correlated anatomical division with functional differentiation by cutting or stimulating the anatomical divisions and observing the changes produced in the experimental animals’ behavior. Bell’s techniques and observations led to Johannes Müller’s generalizations on the sensory functions of the nervous system.
Bell was the son of a minister of the Church of England. His father died when he was five, and he received his basic education from his mother. He was also tutored in art and attended Edinburgh High School for three years. Bell’s older brother John was a surgeon who gave private classes in anatomy. Charles assisted him in his classes, learning medicine from him and from lectures at Edinburgh University. He was admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons in 1799. The success of John Bell’s anatomy classes aroused the jealousy of the medical faculty of the university, who succeeded in barring him and Charles from practice in the Royal Hospital of Edinburgh.
Since his career in Edinburgh was blocked, in 1804 Bell moved to London, where he opened his own school of anatomy and gradually built up a surgical practice. He combined his skill in painting with his scientific interests in Essays on the Anatomy of Expression in Painting (1806). Besides being an exposition of the anatomical and physiological basis of facial expression for artists, the book included much philosophy and critical history of art. The book gained Bell some reputation and remained popular, going through several editions up to 1893. He was co-owner of and principal lecturer at the Great Windmill Street School of Anatomy, founded by William Hunter, from 1812 to 1825 and was instrumental in the founding of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School in 1828. He returned to Edinburgh University as professor of surgery in 1836. Bell was knighted in 1831, in recognition of his scientific achievement. Further recognition came when he was selected to write the fourth Bridge-water Treatise, in which series he published The Hand in 1833.
Bell developed his experimental techniques involving the peripheral nerves in order to discover how the brain functions. In 1811 he published Idea of a New Anatomy of the Brain, a book giving his views on the brain. He circulated one hundred copies to his acquaintances, then published nothing more on the subject for ten years. Bell’s first concern in Idea was to establish that the different parts of the brain serve different functions, rather than that the entire organ was involved in all functions. His statement that the peripheral nerves are composed of divisions “united for convenience of distribution” but “distinct in office” was a concomitant of this view of the brain. Each division of a peripheral nerve received its functional specificity from the part of the brain with which it was connected. This was the crucial element in what were to be Müller’s laws of sensation, and in Idea Bell incidentally stated the central law, that of specific nerve energies. It was Bell’s techniques, however, not his generalizations, that influenced Müller.
Idea included a description of an experiment that demonstrated the differing functions of each root of a spinal nerve. Bell cut the posterior roots and observed no convulsions of the muscles of the back; touching the anterior roots convulsed them. Bell did not deduce the Bell-Magendie law—that the anterior roots are motor, the posterior sensory—from the experiment. Rather, it supported his opinion that the cerebellum, which he thought was the origin of the posterior root filaments, was the locus of the involuntary nervous functions. The cerebrum, the origin of the anterior root filaments, was the locus of the voluntary nervous functions, Bell reasoned that filaments of involuntary nerves did not elicit convulsions because there was no conscious sensation of pain.
Magendie did his own experimental work, formulating and publishing the Bell-Magendie law (1822) after hearing of Bell’s work from John Shaw, Bell’s assistant at the Great Windmill School, The law was a special case of the general principle of nervous function that Bell had worked out, but it was the special case that was noted and became the subject of a bitter priority dispute between Bell and Magendie.
Bell’s later experimental studies, which he correlated with clinical observations, involved the functions of the cranial nerves.
I. Original Works. Bell’s major works are Essays on the Anatomy of Expression in Painting(London, 1806); Idea of a New Anatomy of the Brain (London, 1811), a rare work that is reprinted in Gordon-Taylor and Walls; An exposition of the natural System of Nerves of the Human Body (London, 1824), which includes revisions of papers first published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society; The Nervous System of the Human Body (London, 1830); and The Hand, Its Mechanism and Vital Endowments, as Evincing Design (London, 1833).
II. Secondary Literature. Gordon Gordon-Taylor and E. W. Walls, sir Charles Bell, His Life and Times(London, 1958), the important work on Bell, is an accurate but discursive biography and includes a bibliography of Bell’s writings and the literature on him, J. M. D. Olmsted, François Magendie (New York, 1944), pp, 93-122, details the Bell-Magendie priority dispute.