Tyson eliminates chief comms officer role amid restructuring

Former EVP of corporate affairs and chief communications officer Sara Lilygren May left the company last month.

Sara Lilygren May (image via Tyson Foods' website)
Sara Lilygren May (image via Tyson Foods' website)

SPRINGDALE, AR: Tyson Foods has eliminated Sara Lilygren May’s position of EVP of corporate affairs and chief communications officer as part of a corporate reorganization.

The company restructured in February to sharpen its focus on customers, technology, and sustainability and decentralized its corporate affairs functions as part of the process. Lilygren May exited Tyson in April.

"We believe these changes will make our internal and external communications, government relations, and corporate social responsibility teams even more effective in their efforts to support the company," explained Gary Mickelson, senior director of PR at Tyson, via email. He added that the company appreciates the "leadership and insight" Lilygren May provided.

With the chief communications officer position removed, Ryan Rouse, VP of corporate brand and external communications, is responsible for Tyson’s communications to external audiences. The company moved internal communications under human resources, government relations with Tyson’s legal team, and CSR with sustainability.

Lilygren May said she is seeking an NGO leadership position or a role at a cutting edge food or agriculture company. In the meantime, she is taking a break after 37 years in what she called a "very heavily regulated and controversial industry."

Lilygren May spent nearly 15 of those years at Tyson in various roles. She stepped into her most recent position at the company in 2012, according to her LinkedIn profile.

"It was fabulous to be in the C-suite at Tyson during an amazing turnaround time for the company," she said. "It is a great company with a bright future. I was really proud to work there."

Before joining Tyson, Lilygren May was SVP of legislative and public affairs for the North American Meat Institute, where she worked for 18 years.

Justin Whitmore joined Tyson in the newly created role of chief sustainability officer this month. Last April, Tyson brought on food industry veteran Felecia Collins as VP of corporate communications.

Tom Hayes joined Tyson as CEO in January, replacing Donnie Smith in the company’s top job. Hayes has said he plans to eliminate antibiotics from the company’s flagship chicken products and has shaken up his executive leadership team. The company said last month it plans to acquire packaged sandwich supplier AdvancePierre for $4.2 billion.

Tyson’s sales fell about 1% in its fiscal second quarter to $9.08 billion, and net income dropped 21% to $340 million. The company operates in 115 countries, with 114,000 employees in 400 facilities.

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