Kevin Mayer has stepped down as TikTok CEO after taking the reins less than three months ago. The former Disney executive cited the changing “political environment” in an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s mounting pressure on the popular video-sharing app.
Trump has ordered US companies to halt transactions with TikTok by mid-September. He has also ordered a ban on TikTok unless parent company ByteDance sells its US assets to an American company within 90 days. Microsoft and Oracle are both in the running to acquire its US operations.
The Trump administration has accused the Chinese company of being a threat to national security because of the personal data it collects on US citizens. TikTok has denied these allegations and insists user data is stored in data centres outside of China.
Earlier this week TikTok sued the Trump administration over its bans, arguing they were politically motivated.
TikTok CEO: Shrewd hire is short-lived
When Mayer was appointed TikTok CEO on 18 May, it was seen as a shrewd move by the company.
As Disney’s head of streaming Mayer oversaw the launch of Disney+, which has so far garnered more than 60 million subscribers.
His appointment as TikTok chief executive was expected to assuage concerns that Washington had about TikTok’s Chinese roots.
But since he officially began in the role in June, TikTok has increasingly become a lightning rod for tensions between the US and China.
“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 said in a letter to employees and obtained by the FT, which first broke the news.
“I understand that the role 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.”
Vanessa Pappas, TikTok’s US general manager, will be the interim global head at the company.
TikTok said: “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.”