She has headed comms at Centrica for more than five years, having joined from publisher Reed Elsevier Group in 2006.
May’s departure comes as the firm brings in a new corporate structure, which will affect its comms and corporate affairs functions. Centrica will be de-centralising the teams into its constituent business units during the coming weeks as it looks to constrain costs.
The restructure, which will see reduced comms teams in its British Gas, Centrica Energy and Direct Energy divisions, will result in a headcount cut of comms staff of about 20%.
May commented: ‘The company wants to take a very different approach to having a centralised communications function. I looked at the new structure that we were trying to deliver and it seemed like the obvious point in time to move on and try something else.’
Centrica CEO Sam Laidlaw said in an email to staff that May had ‘transformed the corporate affairs agenda’ since joining the firm at a time it was ‘subject to particularly harsh criticism by the media’.
He wrote: ‘Over the past five years, Catherine has worked unstintingly to deliver a successful and highly regarded corporate affairs and communications programme. She has built a strong team that has gained us an excellent external reputation and been pivotal in developing the internal culture that has been key to our success. This has been recognised through many awards for communications, and through the business being rated as the most admired in its sector for the last two years.’
May said that she plans to launch a business alongside her husband selling flavoured popcorn in the New Year, as well as dedicate more time outside interests that include her non-executive director role for the English National Opera.
She told PRWeek she planned to take a break from the corporate world. ‘I think after a while I’ll go back into the market, but I’m not rushing to do so,’ she said. ‘I am really looking forward to my first proper break for 11 years.’
Centrica itself will retain two media roles at the corporate centre and will retain its current group-wide public affairs remit led by Barry Neville.