TikTok Chief Executive Officer Kevin Mayer has left the company and General Manager Vanessa Pappas will replace him on an interim basis, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters. The development comes days after TikTok sued the Trump administration over an executive order banning transactions in the United States with the popular short-form video-sharing app.
"In recent weeks, 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," Mayer said in the letter. "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."
TikTok, in an emailed statement, confirmed the departure and said that the political dynamics of the last few months had "significantly changed" the scope of Mayer's role. ByteDance's founder and CEO Yiming Zhang said in a separate letter that the company was "moving quickly to find resolutions to the issues that we face globally, particularly in the U.S. and India."
ByteDance employees told Reuters they were not surprised by Mayer's decision given TikTok's unpredictable future, and also because the ex-Disney executive has not had a significant role in some important decisions as he was still new to the team. Zhang has been the key person in TikTok sale talks, said two people with knowledge of the matter. But Mayer represented TikTok to discuss with senior executives of interested buyers just days ago, a third person said.
TikTok's decision to launch a $200 million "creator fund" in July was spearheaded by TikTok's former head Alex Zhu, though Mayer was also directly involved, said two of the people. The project was initiated internally much earlier than Mayer's arrival, one of the people said.
"The learning curve was steep for him, from daily operations to geopolitical implications," said one of the people. ByteDance did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for comment.
US, INDIA CHALLENGES
Amid growing distrust between Washington and Beijing, Trump complained that TikTok was a national security threat and could share information about users with China's government. Trump issued an executive order banning U.S. transactions with TikTok on Aug. 6, effective in mid-September. He issued a separate order about a week later giving ByteDance 90 days to divest of TikTok's U.S. operations and data. ByteDance has been in talks to sell TikTok's North American, Australian, and New Zealand operations which could be worth $25 billion to $30 billion to companies including Microsoft Corp and Oracle Corp, people with knowledge of the matter have said.
The company has also been targeted in India, where TikTok was one of 59 Chinese apps banned by the Indian government in June following a border clash between India and China. TikTok has become a global sensation since ByteDance launched the app in 2017, with operations in countries such as France, South Korea, Indonesia, Russia, and Brazil. In April, the app hit 2 billion downloads globally.