BEIJING • TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer has left the Chinese-owned video app firm just three months since joining, and only days since the company sued the administration of US President Donald Trump over an executive order effectively banning it in the United States.
He will be replaced by US general manager Vanessa Pappas on an interim basis, TikTok said in a statement.
The resignation comes at a tricky time for fast-growing TikTok as it tries to persuade both the US and India that it is not a security threat, while holding discussions with prospective buyers following a second US order demanding the sale of its US operations.
Mr Mayer was Walt Disney Co’s top streaming executive before becoming chief executive of TikTok and chief operating officer of parent ByteDance on June 1.
“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,” Mr Mayer said, in an letter to employees.
“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.”
ByteDance founder and chief executive Zhang Yiming said, in a separate letter reviewed by Reuters, that the company was “moving quickly to find resolutions to the issues that we face globally, particularly in the US and India”.
He said Mr Mayer had joined just as the company was “entering arguably our most challenging moment”.
“It is never easy to come into a leadership position in a company moving as quickly as we are, and the circumstances following his arrival made it all the more complex,” Mr Zhang said.
ByteDance employees said they were not surprised by Mr Mayer’s decision given TikTok’s unpredictable future, and also because the former Disney executive has not had a significant role in some important decisions as he was still new to the team.
Mr Zhang has been the key person in TikTok sale talks, said two people with knowledge of the matter.
But Mr Mayer represented TikTok for discussions with senior executives of interested buyers just days ago, a third person said.
ByteDance employees said they were not surprised by Mr Kevin Mayer’s decision given TikTok’s unpredictable future, and also because the former Disney executive has not had a significant role in some important decisions as he was still new to the team.
“The learning curve was steep for him, from daily operations to geopolitical implications,” said one of the people.
Mr Mark Natkin, managing director of Marbridge Consulting in Beijing, said: “Whether TikTok reaches an agreement to sell its US business or decides to duke it out in the courts, the role for Mayer will not be anything like that he had envisioned when he joined.”