Kevin Mayer is stepping down as the CEO of the short-form video platform, TikTok, a mere three months after taking up the position, reports The Financial Times. The action comes as tensions between TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese startup, Bytedance, and the Trump administration continue to escalate in the U.S.
Vanessa Pappas, who currently serves as TikTok’s general manager, will step up as the app’s interim head. A TikTok spokesperson confirmed Mayer’s departure and said in a statement to Digital Trends: “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.”
Mayer joined TikTok in May earlier this year from Disney, where he had been for over two decades, spearheading several of the entertainment conglomerate’s high-profile acquisitions such as Pixar, and where most recently he served as the Head of Streaming.
In a letter to employees obtained by The Financial Times, Mayer hints that his role has significantly evolved away from what he signed up for. “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,” he said.
Bytedance’s goal behind hiring a high-profile American executive like Kevin Mayer was to allay the growing concerns over the app’s Chinese roots in the U.S. The hiring was part of Bytedance’s broader strategy to distance TikTok from its Chinese background. However, neither of TikTok’s attempts to put these accusations to rest has been effective and it’s now suing the Trump administration for forcing a sale without any due process.
Mayer added that his role, which involved running TikTok’s business globally, “will look very different as a result of the U.S. administration’s action to push for a sell off of the U.S. business.”
More importantly, in the letter, Mayer said the company expected to reach a resolution “very soon” without sharing any specifics. Multiple recent reports have suggested Microsoft will most likely end up acquiring TikTok’s operations in the U.S. and a few other regions. As per Business Insider, TikTok reportedly also offered to sell its U.S. business to Netflix.
Over the last couple of months, TikTok has been grappling with heightened scrutiny in the U.S. Earlier this month, President Donald Trump signed a pair of executive orders banning transactions with the Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat, unless they reach a resolution within 45 days that the U.S. doesn’t deem to be a national security threat. Last week, that deadline was extended to 90 days.
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