TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer resigned on Thursday after only three months on the job, amid the Trump administration’s pressure on ByteDance to divest the US operation of its popular short video service.
“As the political environment has sharply changed, I have done significant reflection on what the corporate structural changes will require, and what it means for the global role I signed up for,” said Mayer in an internal note to employees shared by a TikTok spokesman.
“Against this backdrop, and as we expect to reach a resolution very soon, it is with a heavy heart that I wanted to let you all know that I have decided to leave the company.”
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An executive order signed by US President Donald Trump on August 14 directed ByteDance to divest its TikTok operation in the US within 90 days. Beijing-based ByteDance on Monday filed a lawsuit in federal court for the Central District of California against US President Donald Trump, the Department of Commerce and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross over an executive order signed on August 6, which sought to ban transactions with TikTok owner ByteDance in the interest of national security.
Vanessa Pappas, general manager for TikTok’s North America, Australia and New Zealand operations, has been named as interim head of TikTok, according to the company spokesman. Pappas previously served as a strategic adviser to ByteDance, following a nearly four-year stint as global head for creative insights at YouTube, according to her LinkedIn page.
“We appreciate that the political dynamics of the last few months have significantly changed what the scope of Kevin‘s role would be going forward, and fully respect his decision,” the TikTok spokesman said. “We thank him for his time at the company and wish him well.”
Mayer’s resignation and expectation of a “resolution” for TikTok’s situation in the US may fuel further speculation on which American tech giant could land a deal with ByteDance.
Netflix is the latest company to be linked to the sale of TikTok’s US business, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. Earlier reports said Microsoft Corp and Oracle had held separate talks with ByteDance on a deal to buy TikTok’s businesses in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
“As we look to the next phase of this company, there is no doubt that the future is incredibly bright,” said Mayer, who was also chief operating officer at ByteDance, in the internal note to employees. “For our users, any potential structural changes should not affect their experience, and I strongly believe that our community will be more creative and diverse than ever.”
Mayer, previously The Walt Disney Company’s top streaming executive, left the US entertainment and theme parks giant in May to become TikTok’s chief executive in June this year.
His move came just weeks after TikTok, combined with its Chinese version Douyin, reached the milestone of more than 2 billion downloads, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower.
Mayer, however, had to deal with problems related to geopolitical tensions – and not just in the US. In June, TikTok and 58 other Chinese-owned apps were banned by New Delhi over national security and privacy concerns, weeks after a deadly Himalayan border clash between China and India.
India was TikTok’s largest market, contributing 27.6 per cent to its 596 million downloads in the first half of this year. The US became the top market for TikTok after that ban, according to Sensor Tower.
More from South China Morning Post:
- TikTok may face UK government restrictions but unlikely to be blocked from setting up London office
- TikTok faces ‘uphill struggle’ in court challenge to Donald Trump’s ban
This article TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer quits amid US pressure on ByteDance to sell the short video service first appeared on South China Morning Post