US fastfood giant McDonald's has announced today that Charlie Bell, its former president and chief executive officer, has died of colorectal cancer in his hometown of Sydney, Australia.

Bell, who was 44 years old, was diagnosed with cancer last May, shortly after taking up the helm of the world's largest fastfood company. He stepped down from the role in November in order to focus on fighting the disease.

Before his promotion to CEO in April this year following the sudden death of predecessor Jim Cantalupo from a heart attack, Bell served as the company's president and chief operating officer. During his career, which began at age 15 when he was a part-time crew member at the McDonald's Kingsford restaurant in Sydney, Bell also held the positions of president of McDonald's Europe, president of the company's Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa Group, and managing director of McDonald's Australia.