In what would be a serious body blow to an already troubled TikTok, its newly appointed CEO, former Disney exec Kevin Mayer, has resigned. According to a memo sent to employees, accessed by Financial Times, Mayer has told employees within Tiktok and Bytedance, of his resignation.
Mayer’s resignation comes amid an extremely sensitive political environment around Tiktok, globally. First, India — then Tiktok’s second largest market — announced an outright ban on the app as tensions rose due to failed intrusions by the Chinese army into Indian territory. India banned the app on grounds of risk to user privacy and data and an alleged weak security infrastructure of TikTok in general.
Then came the biggest blow Tiktok has perhaps ever seen, with US president Donald Trump signing executive order to ban any transactions by local US entities with Tiktok. The ban will come into effect in the coming months. Along with it, in an unprecedented, never-seen before move, the US administration also began a forced takoever of Tiktok’s US business by the likes of Microsoft, Twitter, Oracle among others. In fact, the administration has gone on to demand a share of the proceedings, in case such a deal materialises.
All of this resulted in Mayer’s resignation.
“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,” Mayer wrote in the letter to employees.
“I understand that the role that I signed up for — including running TikTok globally — will look very different as a result of the US administration’s action to push for a sell off of the US business,” Mayer further added.
Vanessa Pappas, currently general manager of TikTok, will become interim head, according to the letter.
Ever since concerns around TikTok sending data back to China’s communist government came into light, Bytedance has been trying hard to sell its own side of the story. Bytedance has repeatedly iterated that it does not have any link to the Chinese party and all data is stored locally in the respective countries. The company even went on to resturcture itself, with a planned global headquarter outside China, to further ally those concers.
Clearly, none of this worked, with Trump signing the executive order to ban the app.
Tiktok has since decided to take it upto Trump and his administration, having filed a lawsuit to protest against Trump’s order. The company wrote an extensive blog post announcing the suit, saying “Now is the time for us to act.”
In a statement later sent to FT, Tiktok confirmed Mayer’s resignation. “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,” TikTok said in its statement to the FT.
Mayer had joined TikTok in May this year.