In a convergence of two of America’s biggest cultural giants, McDonald’s is moving into the old home of The Oprah Winfrey Show.
The talk-show queen’s production empire left the Harpo Studios complex near downtown Chicago in December, headed to Los Angeles.
The property will now have new life, morphing from the epicenter of influential daytime television to the standard-bearer of American fast cuisine.
McDonald’s plans to “transform the space” into its new corporate headquarters, as well as a new home for the Hamburger University training center, according to a company statement.
“Today’s announcement is about more than just a new location for us,” said McDonald’s chair Rick Hernandez.
“It is an important investment in our people,” he added, speaking of moving “our business forward for many years to come.”
Oprah Winfrey, whose talk show ended in 2011, sold the facility to a real estate developer two years ago.
But her mark in the area is unmistakable, after more than two decades spent producing her popular talk show from the facility just west of Chicago’s bustling downtown business district, in an area known as the West Loop.
“Once her show went syndicated, my God, it was amazing, because we had people coming to the neighborhood,” Ina Pinkney, a former chef at a West Loop restaurant told NPR in 2011.
Former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley even named a short stretch of the street in front of Harpo Studios “Oprah Winfrey Way” and called the talk show host a “great ambassador for our city.”
“That’s better than an Oscar, or an Emmy,” Winfrey said at the time.
The current headquarters for McDonald’s is in a Chicago suburb. The move to the trendy, restaurant-rich West Loop that Oprah helped create is part of the company’s efforts to become a more modern operation.
“This world-class environment will continue to drive business momentum by getting us even closer to customers, encouraging innovation and ensuring great talent is excited about where they work,” said McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook.
Slumping sales led the company to install Easterbrook as CEO last year.
He made a number of changes, including a focus on improving customer service, promising to use eggs from cage-free chickens and adding an all-day breakfast to the menu.
Those changes and others have lifted earnings and led to three straight quarters of growth.
In announcing its headquarters move, the company said it will create a “modern setting that fosters collaboration and connectivity.”SHOW MORE