In the latest development in the US-TikTok saga, TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer resigns its position. Mayer resigned just months into the job, stepping out at a time when the popular short-form video-sharing app is facing a nationwide ban in the US.
He informed employees of his decision in an internal memo, Bloomberg reports. A company spokesperson has confirmed his resignation. TikTok’s current general manager Vanessa Pappas will take his place on an interim basis.
Following a long career at Disney, Mayer joined ByteDance, the Chinese owner of TikTok, as the chief operating officer (COO) in May this year. He served as the CEO of TikTok and reported directly to the company’s founder, Zhang Yiming.
Hired to lead TikTok’s global business, Mayer arrived at a time when the US-China trade war had just begun intensifying. His appointment was expected to smoothen the company’s relations with the American government but it wasn’t to be. Soon after he arrived, the Trump administration signed executive orders forcing ByteDance to sell TikTok’s US operations or face a nationwide ban.
He is now leaving the company for precisely these reasons. “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 an internal memo.
“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.”
TikTok CEO quits amid the ongoing US disputes
America alleges that the Chinese government may have access to TikTok’s user data, posing a threat to the US’ national security. The Trump administration’s latest executive order bans transactions with ByteDance on security. The order also gives the company until mid-November to find an American buyer.
ByteDance, however, argues that it is a political move orchestrated by President Trump ahead of the 2020 election. TikTok has challenged Trump’s executive order in the courtroom, asking a federal judge to block the American government from enacting a ban.
TikTok may have to eventually sell off its US operations. Filing a legal challenge may give it added time to find a buyer. Microsoft has emerged as a front runner in the talks but it’s not an easy purchase. Since TikTok is a global company, there will be complications in separating a part of its business.
Microsoft also wants to buy TikTok in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. It’s the only company to publicly announce its interest in the popular Chinese app.
Companies including Twitter, Oracle, and Netflix have also reportedly met with TikTok officials for a possible acquisition deal. However, none of them have gone public with their interest, so it’s unclear how far the talks have advanced.
Industry estimates value TikTok’s US operations at anywhere between $10 billion and $50 billion. TikTok may have a hard time finding an American buyer that’s willing to splurge this much money in it.