The 25-year Golden Arches vet was responsible for marketing of nearly 14,000 U.S. restaurants as well as product development and business research. He has served as USA CMO since 2002 and will step down at the end of the first quarter 2008.
Mr. Lamar's replacement will be Neil Golden, 46, who will assume the job April 1, 2008. Mr. Lamar's desire to retire has been no secret. In fact, rumors swirled that he could retire as early as last January. And Mr. Golden, VP-marketing for McDonald's USA, has long been considered the front-runner for the top U.S. marketing spot.
Mr. Golden will have big shoes to fill. Mr. Lamar helped fuel the turnaround at the fast feeder's domestic units, oversaw the launch of the Dollar Menu and premium products including McGriddle breakfast sandwiches, gourmet salads and coffee, and the introduction digital marketing, which reduced dependence on TV ads. Mr. Lamar also led the charge to develop a uniform domestic-marketing strategy, which led to the "I'm Lovin' It" campaign.
Michael Jordan of Mickey D's
"Bill's contributions to our brand are simply too vast to attempt to quantify," Don Thompson, president of McDonald's USA, said in a statement. "What Bill has effectively done in his own unique and quiet way is leave an indelible mark on our brand that will last for generations to come."
Darren Tristano, executive VP of Technomic, likened Mr. Lamar's retirement to Michael Jordan's from the Chicago Bulls.
"He's done a very good job helping bring McDonald's together, been part of a team that's turned the company around, been part of a very successful advertising campaign. He's helped the company be where it is today," he said.
Gregarious with a booming baritone, Mr. Lamar was known as "the operations guy." He spent 10 years in various restaurant operations positions. Five years of that was spent working as VP and general manager for the McDonald's Atlanta region, which included more than 700 restaurants in four states, and more than $1 billion in annual sales.
Golden's golden track record
"The health and trajectory of McDonald's business continues on a path to a bright and prosperous future," Mr. Lamar said in a statement. "It's a good time for me and my wife to turn the page knowing the brand we love is in such a good place."
His successor, Mr. Golden, is responsible for new initiatives, strategic planning, plan development and ethnic marketing. He began his McDonald's career in 1989 as a regional marketing supervisor for the Indianapolis region.
"Neil Golden has a proven track record of people and marketing leadership for brand McDonald's," Mr. Thompson said. "Knowing the essence of our business, coupled with a keen insight for what resonates and motivates people makes Neil uniquely qualified to lead national marketing for the U.S. business."