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CHICAGO ( -- As delegates in Orlando, Fla., gathered today for what is to be the third day of the McDonald's Corp.'s worldwide convention, they will open local daily newspapers to
Photo: AP
Ronald McDonald sheds a tear in today's full-page newspaper ads memorializing deceased CEO Jim Cantalupo. Click to see full ad image.

Companion Story:
Annual Conference Becomes Extraordinary Day of Trauma and Transition

Jim Cantalupo Was Preparing to Open Annual Franchisee Convention

find the normally smiling face of Ronald McDonald with a tear streaming down his grease-painted cheek.

'Miss You, Jim'
"We miss you, Jim," reads the body copy of the full-page ads, created by Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett Worldwide, Chicago. Full-color ads will run in USA Today and black-and-white versions will run in other major dailies around the world, said executives close to the marketer.

It is a quickly assembled tribute to Jim Cantalupo, McDonald's chairman-CEO, who died in the early morning of April 19 of a heart attack on the opening day of the convention.

One executive close to the situation said ads were ordered late that evening as franchisees, employees and their families toasted the surprising turnaround that Mr. Cantalupo had led in his 16 months of running the company. "It's so sad he won't get to enjoy it," said one franchisee attending the meeting. Restaurants around the country flew their flags at half-staff.

Tuesday events
In contrast to the day before, much of Tuesday's events were run as planned, according to delegates. "It was pretty much business as usual but the mood was tempered," another executive said. Many of the attendees said the status quo was inspired by the words of newly named President-CEO Charlie Bell, who the day earlier in his debut speech told delegates to carry on and celebrate their recent success because "Jim would have wanted it that way."

On Tuesday, Mr. Bell read part of a speech to have been presented by his fallen mentor. One staffer called his remarks "comforting and respectful."

Outside of having moved many of Monday's meetings to Tuesday, very little about the content of the convention appeared to have changed,

Photo: AP
Flags at McDonald's facilities around the world fly at half-staff in the wake of the CEO's death. This restaurant is in Bainbridge, Ohio.
according to several attendees. Much of the agenda covers nuts and bolts executional topics aimed at improving restaurant operations and customer service, a key goal that Mr. Cantalupo had yet to achieve in his "Plan to Win."

Franchisee grousing
Mr. Cantalupo might possibly have smiled on the notion that, despite their grief, some of the owner-operators in attendance managed to grouse about the prices of new kitchen and business equipment on display in the exposition hall and the implication that to make money franchisees may have to spend more money. Others debated about whether they can continue charging for Wi-Fi services at roughly $3 per hour when competing restaurants and coffee shops are offering the wireless Internet service for free.

"You'd be surprised at what a basically straight-forward and well-run plan it was today," one executive said of the meeting. On today's schedule is a U.S.-focused session moved from Tuesday where as many as 20 new TV spots will be unveiled, including ads for the Sony Connect promotion, the upcoming Olympic Games and soccer. As in prior years, delegates will end the meeting with a gala event at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, including appearances by Paul Newman, whose salad dressings are now sold with entree salads, and American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken.

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