Jessica Goodfellow
Aug 27, 2020

TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer to resign amid political turmoil

Mayer tells employees that TikTok's political pressures across the world have altered the role he signed up for.

Kevin Mayer at the Disney Up Fronts in May 2019.
Kevin Mayer at the Disney Up Fronts in May 2019.

Kevin Mayer is resigning as chief executive of TikTok after just three months in the role, citing political pressure over recent weeks and the impact this will have on his global role.

In a note to employees, which was leaked to media, Mayer said that he had decided to leave after reviewing what recent changes to TikTok’s corporate structure would mean for his role.

"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 wrote in the email.

"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."

Mayer, who is also the chief operating officer of TikTok parent ByteDance, was only appointed into the dual roles in mid-May. He joined from a 15-year career at The Walt Disney Company, most recently as chairman of direct-to-consumer and international.

A TikTok spokesperson told Campaign: "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. We thank him for his time at the company and wish him well."

The CEO role will be filled by US general manager Vanessa Pappas on an interim basis, TikTok has confirmed.

Mayer is based in the US, where TikTok has an uncertain future. In early August, President Trump issued two executive orders against the short video app, announcing the government would ban transactions with the app within 45 days (till mid-September), and then later giving parent ByteDance 90 days (mid-November) to sell or spin off TikTok's US business. The threats are based on "credible evidence" that TikTok represents a national security threat to the US, Trump said in the orders, since its parent company is based in China. TikTok, which has denied it shares user data with the Chinese government, is set to launch legal action against the US government in retaliation, it was revealed over the weekend.

It's not just in the US that TikTok is facing troubles. The app was banned in India in late June over similar security concerns, and is being threatened with a ban in markets such as Pakistan and Australia.

TikTok, which is the international version of Chinese app Douyin, is exploring a sale to several companies including Microsoft and Oracle. It was also rumoured to be exploring a cash investment from Reliance Jio in India.


Mayer's note to employees:

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. 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.

I want to be clear that this decision has nothing to do with the company, what I see for our future, or the belief I have in what we are building. Yiming (CEO of ByteDance) understands my decision and I thank him for his support on this.

As we look to the next phase of this company, there is no doubt that the future is incredibly bright. 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. The platform will continue to provide our global community an amazing and integrated experience as it does today. Similarly, from an employee perspective, I believe that the vast majority of work will be unchanged.

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