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Dead Aussie McDonald's chief educated by the Marist Brothers

Charlie Bell the young Australian who rose to head hamburger chain McDonald's internationally, and whose illness and death at the age of 44 has generated many headlines in recent days was educated by the Marist Brothers.

Jane Fraser in The Australian reports, "Bell was the quintessential company man, McDonald's to his very core and had been ever since he first heard of McDonald's as a 15-year-old schoolboy at Marcellin College, in the Sydney suburb of Randwick. A mate from school was applying for a job at what he told Bell was the most exciting thing in town - the new kid on the fast food block - McDonald's, which had recently opened its 10th outlet in the southeastern suburb. "What's McDonald's?" Bell had asked.

Marcellin, an institution which has as its motto Aeterna Non Caduca – Everlasting not Ephemeral – is recognised as a Marist Brothers institution that has produced a generation of well-educated young Catholic men from Sydney's eastern suburbs. Charlie Bell was not one of them. He was a poor student. Neither was he a sporting hero. His red hair, pasty complexion, podginess and a propensity to sweat furiously made him a target for the merciless Australian sun and schoolboy derision.

Hardly surprisingly, Bell made scant impression on either his teachers or peers, who were little surprised when he left school at 17 to pursue a career in film and television, an ambition never realised.

By that time he had been working at McDonald's for two years. He scrubbed the tables, he decorated and mayonnaised the hamburgers, he threw himself into the McDonald's work and play milieu.

"He was a nice fellow, a really hard worker who always did 10 per cent more than other people," says Greg Pollock, an ex-Marcellin student who worked with Bell at the hamburger joint.

Other former schoolfriends recall riding their bikes to Kingsford after school to try to cadge a burger, but Bell was impervious to their pleas. McDonald's came first.

Pollock recalls, too, that McDonald's was a beacon for young boys. Coming as they did from a conservative, single-sex Catholic school had its drawbacks. McDonald's provided the social icing. There were girls working there. Young attractive girls. So, serendipitously, it was at McDonald's that Bell met his wife, Leonie Webb, who was a training consultant for the company.

Top of the food chain (The Australian 18/1/05)

18 Jan 2005