Longtime McDonald's CEO founded Hamburger University
Fred Turner, one of McDonald's Corp.'s earliest employees, who created its distinctive Hamburger University and succeeded founder Ray Kroc as chief executive officer, has died at 80.
He passed away of complications from pneumonia Monday in Deerfield, Ill., said daughter Paula Turner. He was honorary chairman of the board of the world's largest restaurant company.
Turner founded Hamburger University in the basement of a McDonald's restaurant in Elk Grove Village, Ill., in 1961, according to a company history. The first class, 15 students, graduated in February of that year. Since then, more than 80,000 restaurant managers, mid-managers and owner-operators have gone through the program, which hosts more than 5,000 students each year.
Aside from the Hamburger U. campus in Illinois, training sites are in Sydney, Munich, London, Tokyo, Sao Paulo and Beijing.
During his tenure as CEO, Turner oversaw the introduction of the Egg McMuffin in 1975, Happy Meals in 1979 and Chicken McNuggets in 1983. He was an architect of the company's emphasis on quality, service and cleanliness, known as QSC.
“Fred was a true pioneer and shaped the quick-service restaurant industry,” Andy McKenna, chairman of the board, said in a statement.
As of 2003, the year before he retired, Turner owned about 1.5 million shares of McDonald's common stock and stock equivalents, then valued at $21.7 million, according to a company filing.
He was born in 1933 in Des Moines and attended Drake University.
In 1956, he became one of the first employees hired by Kroc, founder of McDonald's.
“He was little more than a kid, 23 years old,” Kroc wrote in his memoir, of his first meeting with Turner in February 1956. “He had a baby face and the most infectious grin I'd seen in years.”
Turner and Joe Post, partners with members of their families in a venture called the Post-Turner Corp., were seeking to buy and operate a McDonald's franchise. Turner took Kroc up on his suggestion that he work at a McDonald's to learn the ropes. “I could see he was a born leader,” wrote Kroc, who died in 1984.
Family members couldn't agree on where to locate their proposed new franchise, so Turner struck out on his own as manager of a McDonald's in Chicago. Within a year, Kroc brought him in to company headquarters.
“He was proud of everything about McDonald's, and rightly so — he and Ray built it, with many other people,” his daughter said.
Turner became operations vice president in 1958, an executive vice president in 1967 and, in 1968, president and chief administrative officer. He was named president and chief executive in 1974 and chairman and CEO in 1977. He was CEO until 1987 and chairman until 1990. When he retired in 2004, McDonald's had 31,500 stores in more than 100 countries and revenue of $19.1 billion.
His philanthropic activities included serving as a co- founder and life trustee of Ronald McDonald House Charities, which supports families of critically ill children.