The British McDonald’s chief fired over a fling has hit back at efforts to recoup his £30million payoff – saying the burger giant had had explicit evidence of his office romances.
Steve Easterbrook, who was sacked last year over a relationship with a junior colleague, has accused his former bosses of presiding over a shoddy investigation when he left the company.
Explosive legal documents last week said McDonald’s had been unaware of the true number of work romances 53-year-old Mr Easterbrook was involved in, labelling him a liar.
The firm said it had only recently found ‘dozens of nude, partially nude or sexually explicit photographs and videos of various women,’ including three employees, on its own email servers, which had not been searched last year.
But in his legal defence Chicago-based Mr Easterbrook said the £125billion corporation was not thorough enough before signing off his deal and has had its ‘new’ evidence all along.
Attorney Daniel Herr, acting for the Watford-born divorced father of three, wrote: ‘McDonald’s is improperly attempting to get out of its bargain nine months after the fact and despite admitting it always possessed the information upon which it is now relying.
‘McDonald’s admits that the ‘new’ information it now relies upon is not new at all – rather, since the outset of the investigation it was in the company email account stored on the company’s servers.’
Mr Easterbrook said he displayed ‘poor judgment’ over his relationship with a junior colleague when he was fired in November last year, bringing the end to a rise from the firm’s accounting department to the top job.
He was once the golden boy of the ‘Golden Arches’, turning around the chain’s ailing fortunes and doubling the share price during his five years in charge.
His pay-off saw him given half a year’s salary and millions in lucrative shares, a deal McDonald’s now wants to cancel.
But Mr Herr added: ‘Prior to entering into the separation agreement, McDonald’s conducted a thorough investigation involving ‘independent outside counsel’, who advised McDonald’s independent directors, its board, and its general counsel.
‘The separation agreement was therefore, and unequivocally, a well thought-out and bargained for exchange involving sophisticated parties.’
Financial experts have said McDonald’s has left itself open to the type of accusation now being made by Mr Easterbrook.
Dieter Waizenegger, executive director of CtW Investment, which led a campaign against Mr Easterbrook’s payoff, said the original investigation was not extensive enough.
He told the Financial Times: ‘It strikes me as very odd, and limited. The board really didn’t do its job.’
And Tim Hubbard, from the Mendoza College of Business in the US, added: ‘This is the first time I’ve seen something like this – for them to come back and revisit an issue that I believe most board members would wish would just go away.’
Yesterday Mr Easterbrook was branded ‘shallow and contemptible’ after wooing a public relations executive using a McDonald’s private jet.
Denise Paleothodoros dated Mr Easterbrook for four years until 2018 and on Saturday told how they planned to move in together in Chicago before drifting apart.
The romance began as her 15-year marriage ended and her former husband, Nick, told the Sun on Sunday: ‘He loves to play the big man. But he’s shallow and contemptible.’
Mr Easterbrook was unavailable for comment. McDonald’s declined to comment on the new court papers.