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Ex-McDonald’s CEO Gets Back in Restaurant Game With West Loop Firm

Don Thompson’s new firm has already launched its first concept, a beverage bar in New York.

Don Thompson in 2014   Photo: Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune

Crain’s Chicago Business today reported that former McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson has launched a new restaurant- and food-focused venture firm based in Chicago.

Cleveland Avenue has quietly been in the works since the fall, Crain’s reported, and has opened a large office in the West Loop, but only today did it announce its first concept restaurant: Drink, a 400-square-foot nonalcoholic beverage bar within American Eagle’s flagship store in New York’s Times Square.

The name of Thompson’s venture refers to the street on which both he and his wife, Liz, grew up near Cabrini-Green. A 2015 Chicago profile notes that by seventh grade, Thompson was carrying a briefcase to school. “I got teased, but I just didn’t care. It served a purpose and a function. Plus, I thought it was pretty cool: the executive look,” he said.

That executive look served him well. After a long career at the Oak Brook-based fast-food giant, Thompson was named McDonald’s CEO in June 2012. It was a short and unremarkable tenure: earnings fell from $1.4 billion in 2013 to $1.1 billion in 2014, and its stock price was flat as younger customers started to favor upstarts like Shake Shack and Five Guys. By January 2016 Thompson announced he would be stepping down.

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