5. Don Thompson
5. Don Thompson
Position: Chief operating officer

Currently: President and CEO, McDonald's

Before he took over as CEO of the fast-food giant on July 1, Thompson established himself as a world-class operating chief, running some 33,500 restaurants around the globe for more than two years. He was a key player in the U.S. McCafé launch, the company's largest in more than 35 years, which has generated more than $125,000 in additional annual sales per store. The Chicago native (he was raised near the old Cabrini-Green housing project) has a reputation for putting the needs of the company ahead of his own: When McDonald's announced in March that he would succeed longtime CEO Jim Skinner, Thompson stayed out of the spotlight, declining interviews out of respect for his boss.

--Beth Kowitt

@FortuneMagazine - Last updated July 26 2012: 5:38 AM ET
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