Davenport native Jim Skinner worked in his teen years as an entry-level crew person at a former McDonald’s restaurant on Brady Street.
From there, he climbed his way to the top of the company’s ladder — the very top.
After 41 years with the company, Skinner, now 67, has announced that he will retire June 30 from his post as CEO of the world’s largest burger chain. He has held the position since 2004.
In a 2008 interview with the Quad-City Times, Skinner, a 1962 graduate of Davenport West High School, called his story a prime example of “the American dream,” which he said is still possible for anyone flipping burgers at McDonald’s.
“It’s not only possible, it’s a reality,” Skinner said at the time. “This is the American dream in an American company that is not exactly ‘what you see is what you get.’”
Skinner began working his way to the top after serving
10 years in the U.S. Navy.
Calling Davenport a “strong-shouldered Midwestern city with Midwestern values,” Skinner credits his success to learning those values in the Quad-Cities, where his family moved from New York City when he was just a few years old.
His father was a bricklayer by trade, and Skinner thinks the family moved to follow work opportunities for him. At West, Skinner was on the wrestling team.
“I really got my work ethic from my father,” Skinner said. “He was never out of work. He got up every morning and grinded it out every day. I have been successful because of that.”
Skinner met his wife in Chicago, marrying her in 1969. And then, in the early 1970s, he was attending night school — he never finished college — when he began thinking seriously about whether he wanted to make the Navy his career or whether he wanted a different career path.
It was about that time that a fellow Navy man said something that changed the course of Skinner’s life, he said.
“We were going to stay in and become officers, but he said, ‘If I wasn’t going to stay in the Navy, I would go to work for McDonald’s,’” Skinner said.
So, in 1971, Skinner did a walk-in interview on a Wednesday and then began working on a Friday as a manager trainee at a McDonald’s in Carpentersville, Ill., in the Chicago area.
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On his way up the ladder, Skinner served as vice chairman of the McDonald’s board and had management responsibility for operations in Asia, Middle East and Africa and Latin
America, in addition to overseeing most corporate staff functions. He also was accountable for McDonald’s Japan Limited, the corporation’s second-largest market with nearly 4,000 restaurants.
Skinner previously served as president and CEO of the McDonald’s Restaurant Group, with operating accountability for the company’s more than 30,000 restaurants in 118 countries at the time.
In the 1990s, he was a senior vice president and relationship partner for McDonald’s international management team, overseeing development in Central Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India.
Donald Thompson, a 22-year McDonald’s veteran who is responsible for global strategy and operations for the chain’s more than 33,000 restaurants in 119 countries, will take over the helm from Skinner.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)