Insider Retail: The rise and fall of McDonald’s CEO, Peloton’s pandemic sales skyrocket, and Whole Foods worker protest a new policy

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Happy Friday! 

It's been a busy week as always on the retail team. If this is your first time reading Insider Retail, welcome to Business Insider's weekly round-up of everything that's happening in restaurants and retail. If you haven't already subscribed, you can do so here to get this newsletter — from me, Kate Taylor, and my colleague, Shoshy Ciment — in your inbox every Friday. 

Now, if you will let me write a bit about a story that I have been obsessed with for the last month... 

The rise and fall of McDonald's ex-CEO

McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook

I spent the last few weeks digging into the rise and fall of former McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook, who is currently being sued by the company. What I found is essentially a fast-food soap opera, complete with sex scandals, cover-ups, and office politics that are comparable to "the court of Henry VIII," as one source put it. 

A few tidbits: 

  • McDonald's filed a lawsuit against Easterbrook in August, alleging he covered up sexual relationships with three employees when the company investigated his relationship with another McDonald's employee back in 2019. Some insiders wonder why the first investigation fell short. "The very lawsuit against Mr. Easterbrook places the integrity of that first investigation into some question," an attorney specializing in executive misconduct cases said.
  • Denise Paleothodoros, Easterbrook's ex-girlfriend, told me their relationship eroded as he began to socialize more frequently with a group of men within the McDonald's system after he became CEO. An ex-McDonald's employee told me Easterbrook and his crew were known for hanging out in the so-called Viagra Triangle, a neighborhood filled with bars where older wealthy men pick up younger women. 
  • McDonald's recently revealed its former head of HR was fired shortly after Easterbrook's termination for making women uncomfortable. "We just thought he was a sad man who drank too much and weirdly didn't have friends outside of people who worked for him," an employee on the global HR team told me.
  • McDonald's new CEO Chris Kempczinski is all about values. His reputation is so squeaky clean that a source told me that he was internally referred to by some as the human version of the McDonald's vanilla ice cream cone. But, some insiders still don't trust him. 

My coworkers have listened to me talk about this drama for weeks, but you can just read the full story here instead! 

Peloton thrives in the pandemic 

Peloton 8

Peloton had a big week, and Bethany was all over the news.

On Tuesday, the company announced it was launching a cheaper version of its treadmill and a new premium stationary bike. The cost of the original Peloton is dropping to $1,895, down from $2,245. 

On Thursday, Peloton reported a whopping 172% year-over-year sales increase in the most recent quarter. But, massive demand has also fueled supply chain problems. CEO John Foley said the company plans to start selling used bikes and may offer rental options. 

"While we had expected demand to moderate, the unexpected resurgence of COVID-19 cases in many states has perpetuated the imbalance of supply and demand," Foley wrote in a letter to shareholders. 

Read the full story here.

A beer giant is betting on probiotic seltzer and barley milk

Catherine and Alex got the exclusive on Molson Coors Beverage Company announcing a new slate of four premium non-alcoholic products which they've developed in partnership with L.A. Libations. 

"Forty percent of the growth in the beverage industry is coming from brands in categories that didn't exist five years ago," Danny Stepper, CEO and co-founder of L.A. Libations said. "Consumers are definitely reaching for new things. They want to explore, they want to treasure hunt."

Get all the details here.

Whole Foods workers call a new policy a "slap in the face" 

Whole Foods
A Whole Foods Market worker moves grocery carts in Durham, N.C., Wednesday, April 15, 2020.

Hayley spoke with Whole Foods workers who are infuriated by a policy at the grocery chain that uses a point system to track attendance. While these points normally are supposed to expire, the company extended the expiration date for points that were earned before the pandemic, according to interviews with four Whole Foods employees and internal documents.

"It's a slap in the face to everyone who showed up during the height of the pandemic," said an employee of a Philadelphia Whole Foods store, who spoke to Business Insider on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. "To say those hours we came in didn't count — it's completely cruel."

Read the full story here. 

Everything else you need to know

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