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Who Really Owns McDonald’s? A Deep Dive into the Fast Food Giant’s Ownership

One of the most well-known fast food franchises in the world, McDonald’s has more than 36,000 locations throughout more than 100 nations. But who is McDonald’s’ owner? The solution is not as simple as it first appears.

McDonald's is an American hamburger and fast food restaurant chain

Even though the McDonald’s Corporation is a publicly traded company, anyone can purchase shares and become a part-owner of the business, institutional investors like mutual funds and pension funds make up the majority of the company’s shareholders.

The Vanguard Group reportedly held 8.81% of McDonald’s stock as of 2023, making it the company’s top shareholder, according to CNN Business. State Street Corporation and BlackRock are two more significant institutional investors.

The management team at McDonald’s still plays a crucial role in making decisions that affect the company’s direction and strategy, despite the fact that institutional investors hold the bulk of the company’s shares.

The CEO, the board of directors, and other top executives who are in charge of managing the day-to-day operations of the business are included in this.

The performance of the corporation as a whole and its prospects for the future can be understood by knowing who owns McDonald’s and how decisions are made.

History of McDonald’s

American fast food chain McDonald’s is well-known throughout the world.

Exterior of McDonald's restaurant

Maurice and Richard McDonald, brothers, founded the business in San Bernardino, California, in 1940.

When it first opened, the restaurant was a drive-in with a large menu.

However, the brothers decided to revamp the company in 1948, and a newly envisioned McDonald’s opened after a three-month renovation.

Founding of McDonald’s

Burgers, cheeseburgers, fries, milkshakes, and soft drinks were among the nine things on the McDonald brothers’ restaurant’s distinctive nine-item menu.

Tasty Big Mac hamburger, french fries, and cup of drink

The brothers were able to serve guests fast and effectively thanks to their streamlined approach to food preparation and service.

Ray Kroc, a struggling milkshake machine salesman, went to the San Bernardino McDonald’s in 1954.

He was astounded by the operation’s efficiency and saw the concept’s potential for franchising.

In 1955, Kroc created the first McDonald’s franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois, after persuading the brothers to grant him permission to franchise the company.

Due to the enormous success of Kroc’s franchising strategy, McDonald’s established its 100th outlet in 1959.

For $2.7 million, Kroc bought out the McDonald brothers in 1961, taking control of the business.

By the late 1960s, McDonald’s had grown into a global brand with locations in Canada, Europe, and Australia thanks to Kroc’s continual franchise expansion.

With more than 38,000 stores throughout more than 100 countries, McDonald’s is currently one of the biggest fast food franchises in the world.

To adapt to shifting consumer preferences, the organization keeps innovating and evolving, adding new menu items and technology.

McDonald’s has received criticism over the years for its effects on public health and the environment, but it continues to be a cherished and iconic brand that has ingrained itself into the culture of many nations.

Ownership of McDonald’s

Current Owners

McDonald’s Corporation is a publicly traded company, which means that it is owned by its shareholders.

An fast food employee takes orders from a customer in Mcdonald's

As of May 5, 2023, the largest shareholder of McDonald’s is The Vanguard Group, Inc., which owns 8.7% of the outstanding shares.

Other major shareholders include BlackRock, Inc. and State Street Corporation, which own 6.2% and 4.9% of the outstanding shares, respectively.

Institutional ownership of McDonald’s is high, with 68.69% of the company’s outstanding shares being held by institutional investors.

Retail investors, on the other hand, own only 31.07% of the outstanding shares.

There are currently 759,918,000 shares of McDonald’s outstanding, which means that The Vanguard Group, the company’s largest shareholder, owns roughly 66,108,366 shares.

The Vanguard Group’s ownership in McDonald’s is currently valued at $265.05 per share, or roughly $17.5 billion.

Overall, institutional and retail investors hold a sizable portion of McDonald’s stock, and no single shareholder holds a controlling interest in the business.

This guarantees that the business keeps its shareholders in mind and acts in their best interests.

Franchise System

McDonald’s is renowned for its franchising business model, which has been crucial to its success.

McDonald's fast food store in the historical city center

Approximately 93% of the company’s more than 39,000 restaurants, which are spread across more than 100 nations, are run and owned independently by franchisees.

McDonald’s issues a license to individuals or organizations to run a restaurant utilizing its brand name and business model under the franchise system.

Franchisees give the corporation an upfront fee and ongoing royalties in exchange.

Franchisees are in charge of running their businesses on a daily basis, including employing staff, controlling inventory, and handling money.

McDonald’s has different types of franchise agreements, such as:

  • Conventional Franchise: In this model, the franchisee owns the restaurant’s physical property and pays rent to McDonald’s for using its brand and operational system.
  • Developmental License: This agreement is for franchisees who want to open multiple restaurants in a specific geographic area. The franchisee pays an upfront fee and agrees to open a certain number of restaurants within a specified timeframe.
  • Affiliates: McDonald’s has affiliate companies that own and operate some of its restaurants. These affiliates are responsible for all aspects of the restaurant’s operations, including hiring employees, managing inventory, and handling finances.

The ability for McDonald’s to grow quickly without having to incur the expense of opening and running new stores is one advantage of the franchise structure.

These expenses, including the initial investment and ongoing costs, are covered by the franchisee.

Franchisees also frequently provide superior service and a better overall customer experience due to their financial stake in the success of their eateries.

The franchise structure does, however, provide certain difficulties. When working with independent franchisees, McDonald’s must uphold brand standards across all of its restaurants, which can be challenging.

Franchisees may also have different goals than the franchisor, which may result in disagreements over things like menu items, prices, and promotions.

Overall, the development and prosperity of the corporation have been greatly aided by the McDonald’s franchise system.

Cooperating with independent franchisees has allowed McDonald’s to grow while upholding its brand standards.

Financial Performance

One of the biggest and most prosperous fast-food chains in the world is McDonald’s.

worker at McDonald's restaurant

Due to its extensive global presence, great brand awareness, and devoted customer base, the company has continuously produced strong financial success throughout the years.

McDonald’s made $19.2 billion in sales and $4.7 billion in net profits in 2020, according to the company’s annual report.

The study also emphasizes the firm’s dedication to maximizing marketing and digital capabilities, reducing business processes, and improving customer experience as part of its Accelerating the Arches plan.

McDonald’s announced global sales of $23.2 billion in 2021, a 21% rise from 2019, and the company’s highest level since $24.6 billion in 2016.

The reopening of restaurants following pandemic-related closures, the introduction of new menu items, and the expansion of the company’s delivery and digital capabilities were some of the factors that contributed to its outstanding financial performance.

Through dividends and share buybacks, McDonald’s has a proven track record of providing value to its shareholders.

The business paid out $4.7 billion in dividends and share repurchases to shareholders in 2020, and it has steadily raised its dividend distribution over time.

In terms of stock performance, McDonald’s is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the ticker symbol MCD.

The company’s stock has a long history of steady growth and stability, making it a popular choice among investors.

As of May 5, 2023, McDonald’s stock was trading at $265.50 per share, with a market capitalization of $207.8 billion.

Overall, McDonald’s strong financial performance, commitment to driving growth and shareholder value, and solid track record of returning value to its shareholders make it a compelling investment opportunity for investors looking for a stable, long-term investment.

Corporate Social Responsibility

McDonald’s is a well-known international retailer of foodservice products and has long been dedicated to CSR.

McDonald's people restaurant on the central street of the city

Food, people, community, and planet are the four main areas on which the corporation focuses its CSR efforts.

In each of these areas, McDonald’s has established high standards and is constantly striving to perform better.


McDonald’s is dedicated to providing customers with wholesome food that has been ethically sourced and manufactured.

By 2020, the company wants to obtain all of its cattle, fish, palm oil, and coffee from proven sustainable sources.

The company is committed to using cage-free eggs in all of its restaurants in the US and Canada by 2025 and is also aiming to limit the use of antibiotics in its chicken supply chain.


McDonald’s is dedicated to giving its staff a secure and welcoming environment.

To assist its employees in developing their abilities and advancing their careers, the business provides training and development opportunities.

Additionally, McDonald’s offers its staff fair pay and benefits, such as paid time off and health insurance.


McDonald’s is dedicated to supporting the local communities where it does business.

A number of philanthropic organizations and programs are supported by the business, notably the Ronald McDonald House Charities, which offers accommodation and assistance to families with very ill children.

In order to boost regional economies and lessen its environmental impact, McDonald’s also collaborates with regional farmers and suppliers.


McDonald’s is dedicated to minimizing its negative effects on the environment and fostering environmentally friendly behaviors.

By 2030, the corporation wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions from its restaurants and offices by 36%.

McDonald’s has established a target to recycle all of its customer packaging by the year 2025. The company is also aiming to reduce waste and enhance recycling.

Overall, McDonald’s CSR initiatives show the business’s dedication to conducting business responsibly and sustainably.

The company’s objectives and programs in the areas of food, people, community, and planet are assisting in changing the world for the better.

Frequently Asked Questions

McDonald's employee is doing his job

Who owns McDonald’s?

McDonald’s is a publicly traded company, which means that it is owned by its shareholders. According to CNN Business reports, most of the company’s owners are institutional investors, who make up 70.14% of the outstanding shares. Individual owners only make up about 0.31%.

Who founded McDonald’s?

McDonald’s was founded by brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald in 1940. They opened their first restaurant in San Bernardino, California, and it quickly became popular for its fast service and affordable prices.

Who bought McDonald’s?

Ray Kroc is the man who is responsible for turning McDonald’s into the global fast-food giant that it is today. Kroc was a milkshake machine salesman who was impressed by the McDonald brothers’ restaurant and convinced them to let him franchise it. He opened his first McDonald’s franchise in 1955 and eventually bought the company from the McDonald brothers for $2.7 million in 1961.

How many McDonald’s restaurants are there in the world?

As of 2021, there are over 38,000 McDonald’s restaurants in more than 100 countries around the world. The company serves over 69 million customers every day and employs over 200,000 people in the United States alone.

What is the most popular item on the McDonald’s menu?

The most popular item on the McDonald’s menu is the Big Mac, which was introduced in 1968. The Big Mac is a double-decker burger that features two beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame seed bun. Other popular items on the menu include the Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Chicken McNuggets, and the Filet-O-Fish.

MacDonalds restaurant storefront


In conclusion, McDonald’s is a publicly traded business with a sizable portion of institutional investors as its stockholders.

With 8.33% of the total outstanding shares, The Vanguard Group, Inc. is the largest stakeholder.

Additionally, State Street Corporation and BlackRock, Inc. each hold a sizable percentage of shares (6.0% and 4.33%, respectively).

The McDonald’s family legacy continues even though they no longer own a sizable share of the business.

The company was started by Richard and Maurice McDonald in 1940, and Ray Kroc transformed it into the massive fast-food chain it is today.

Currently, a board of directors governs the McDonald’s Corporation, with Chris Kempczinski serving as CEO.

With its franchising concept, McDonald’s has also transformed the fast food sector. Only 15% of the company’s 36,000+ outlets are owned by the company; the remainder are owned by franchisees.

This business strategy has enabled quick growth and innumerable job possibilities all around the world.

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.