Don Thompson (119883)

As Black History Month kicks off, comes the news that Don Thompson, one of only six African American CEOs at a Fortune 500 firm, will retire from his spot as head of the global restaurant chain.

Thompson, 51, joined the company in 1990 as an electrical engineer and went on to become president of McDonald’s USA and global chief operating officer before taking over the top job in July 2012.

The announcement of Thompson’s retirement came from the company, just as the world’s largest restaurant chain finished one of its toughest years in decades.

“It’s tough to say goodbye to the McFamily, but there is a time and season for everything,” Thompson said in a statement. “I am truly confident as I pass the reins over to Steve (Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Officer Steve Easterbrook, who was selected to replace him by the company’s board), that he will continue to move our business and brand forward.”

Thompson’s departure leaves behind just five other African Americans head of fortune 500 corporations—Kenneth Frazier of Merck, Kenneth Chenault of American Express, Ursula Burns with Xerox, and Roger Ferguson, who heads privately-held TIAA-CREF.

According to the Executive Leadership Council (ELC), Marvin Ellison was announced in October 2014 as the next CEO for JCPenny. He is expected to assume the post in August.

Others in key CEO positions include Jo Ann Jenkins with the nonprofit AARP; Bernard J. Tyson of nonprofit Kaiser Permanente; Arnold Donald with Panama-based Carnival Cruises and Orlando Ashford of Holland America cruise lines, who was named to his post in December.

John W. Thompson, former CEO of Symantec Corporation is currently chairman of Microsoft Corporation board of directors.

ELC spokesman Michael Dutton said that in 2007, there were seven African Americans leading fortune 500 companies. The council is the preeminent member organization for the development of global Black leaders.