McDonald’s Corp. chief operating officer Tim Fenton will retire effective Oct. 1, the company said Thursday, ushering in a reorganization of its global management structure.

Fenton, 56, will continue to serve as chief operating officer through the transition period and will be a special advisor to president and chief executive Don Thompson after that. Fenton joined McDonald’s as a crew member in Utica, N.Y., in 1973, and worked his way up to several executive positions, including president of the Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa, or APMEA, division, before his move to COO in July 2012.

Upon notification of Fenton’s retirement, Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s board of directors approved a reorganization of its reporting structure. The presidents of McDonald’s three “areas of the world” — the United States, Europe and APMEA — will now report directly to Thompson rather than the chief operating officer, a role which will not be replaced.

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Two senior executives will assume more responsibilities formerly handled by the COO. Pete Bensen, the company’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, will assume oversight of global supply chain, development and franchising. Executive vice president and global chief brand officer Steve Easterbrook will pick up duties for corporate strategy, corporate social responsibility and oversight of the Restaurant Solutions Group. Both Bensen and Easterbrook will be promoted to senior executive vice president.

“We are confident that Pete, Steve and our global leadership team will remain focused on driving the business forward and delivering an outstanding restaurant experience to our 70 million customers we serve daily around the world,” Thompson said in a statement.

He continued: “On behalf of the entire McDonald’s system, I salute Tim for his 41 years of continuous service to McDonald’s and want to thank him for his countless contributions to our business. We have benefitted greatly from his international experience, deep commitment to operational excellence and proven track record of success.”

Fenton said in a statement that it was a “difficult and personal decision” to retire.

“It’s widely known that I battle severe asthma,” he said. “I simply cannot continue to meet the global travel demands of this position and will focus on improving my health closer to home. I intend to always be of service to this great company, our employees, customers and suppliers.”

The company’s reorganization comes after several months of difficulty growing same-store sales in its three major geographies around the world. At least one securities analyst following McDonald’s, John Ivankoe of J.P. Morgan North America Equity Research, recently speculated that the quick-service brand might reorganize its reporting structure, with the goal of creating “more effective demand-driven, store-level initiatives,” as well as reducing some overhead expenses.

In a Feb. 21 research note, Ivankoe wrote that McDonald’s last major corporate restructuring began in 2001, when the number of U.S. operating divisions was reduced from five to three. The next year brought more change, when certain international markets were transitioned to developmental licensees, a long-term technology project was shelved, the home office consolidated and a significant number of underperforming restaurants closed.

What emerged from that upheaval, he noted, was the “Plan to Win” strategy in 2003, which aligned the McDonald’s system around corporate pillars of modernizing the menu and facilities, and which coincided with the debut of the “I’m Lovin’ It” marketing campaign.

“We believe the entire McDonald’s organization may be due for a clean-slate top-to-bottom overhaul,” Ivankoe wrote. “A potential organizational change could focus on developing the best structure for the fastest and most effective development and implementation of ideas to increase customer relevancy — a key need highlighted by McDonald’s of late.”

McDonald’s operates or franchises nearly 35,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries, including more than 14,000 locations in the United States.

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