Thompson stepped down after nearly 25 years with the fast-food company. He was president, CEO and served on the board of directors. His resignation becomes effective March 1.
He'll be replaced by Easterbrook, who is currently the company's chief brand officer. The British executive has led McDonald's UK and European business units, Andrew McKenna, non-executive chairman of the board of directors, said.
"It's tough to say goodbye to the McFamily, but there is a time and season for everything. I am truly confident as I pass the reins over to Steve, that he will continue to move our business and brand forward," Thompson said.
"I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Don and congratulate him on his remarkable career at McDonald's," Easterbrook said. "I am honored to lead this great brand, and am committed to working with our franchisees, suppliers and employees to drive forward our strategic business priorities to better serve our customers."
The news came less than a week after McDonald's reported sluggish sales for the fourth quarter of 2014 and the entire year.
"2014 was a challenging year for McDonald's around the world. Our results declined as unforeseen events and weak operating performance pressured results in each of our geographic segments," Thompson said.
In the fourth quarter, McDonald's saw a 0.9 percent global comparable sales decrease, 1 percent for the full year.
The news of Thompson's departure broke after Wall Street closed, but after-hours trading saw a 3.18 percent increase in McDonald's shares.
The recall affects 2010-13 Ford Taurus, Lincoln MKS and Ford Police Interceptor sedans sold in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The vehicles were built between 2009 and 2012 at Ford's assembly plant in Chicago.
Ford dealers will inspect all four doors on recalled vehicles' handle springs at their service locations, and replace the handles if necessary.
In addition to the sedan recall, Ford is also recalling 16,100 Ford Transit Connect vans due to concerns the seat belt fasteners were not properly tightened and may loosen over time. Ford dealerships are also equipped to repair the vans' seat belts.
Ford says it is unaware of any injuries or accidents stemming from either recalled part.