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McDonald's to Change Direction?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- In McDonald's (MCD - Get Report), we had a modern day rarity: a CEO with a deservedly good reputation for acumen and accomplishment. But with Jim Skinner announcing his slightly unexpected retirement (everyone knew he was going, just not this early) we need the media to answer three questions right at the outset:

1) What is his successor's biggest strength? 2) What is his successor's biggest weakness? 3) Does his successor appear poised to change or stay the course?

Unfortunately, traders have to string together different media accounts to get all three of these basic but essential questions answered. The Associated Press is one of several media outlets that does not deign to ask--let alone answer--any of these imperatives.

The Wall Street Journal, by happy contrast, lets traders know at the outset that Thompson has been the mind behind the company's wildly successful move into specialty coffee drinks, a good sign indeed. It also implies that Don Thompson probably won't veer too drastically from Skinner's proven course, a relief. But the Journal does not touch upon any possible limitation.

The New York Times, which does not touch its toe on the stay-the-course or strength issue, does get to a possible weakness: international markets are a growing portion of McDonald's business, but Thompson has never been posted overseas. That might be no drawback at all--Thompson has plenty of operational (at a distance) experience. The point is that Skinner was great and Thompson is next. Traders need to greet his arrival by answering the three basic questions the media failed to ask.

At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.

Marek Fuchs was a stockbroker for Shearson Lehman Brothers and a money manager before becoming a journalist who wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column for six years. He also did back-up beat coverage of The New York Knicks for the paper's Sports section for two seasons and covered other professional and collegiate sports. He has contributed frequently to many of the Times' other sections, including National, Metro, Escapes, Style, Real Estate, Arts & Leisure, Travel, Money & Business, Circuits and the Op-Ed Page.

For his "Business Press Maven" column on how business and finance are covered by the media, Fuchs was named best business journalist critic in the nation by the Talking Biz website at The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fuchs is a frequent speaker on the business media, in venues ranging from National Public Radio to the annual conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

Fuchs appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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