Oak Brook, Illinois--McDonald's Corp. owner-operators are challenging the company's plans for them to pick up most of the tab for refurbishing older restaurants. The National Leadership Council, which represents 2,300 owner-operators in the United States, is negotiating with management about the required modernization of about 5,000 U.S. restaurants--more than a third of McDonald's U.S. total. A franchisee representative said the group will hire a top law firm to study whether McDonald's can legally force them to pay most of the rebuilding costs, estimated at $800,000 to $1 million per store. Many owner-operators have long disputed the company's right to make them pay for expensive restaurant upgrades, but this reportedly is the first time they are consulting attorneys on the issue. -Associated Press