TikTok: CEO Kevin Mayer Resigns after Trump Administration Threatens to Ban the App

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg (L) and TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer (R), speak on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, N.Y., October 22, 2019. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer said he is resigning from his post after only three months with the short-form video app, as the company seeks to sell off its American operations before September 20 or face being banned in the U.S.

As President Trump has cracked down on TikTok and other Chinese apps over security concerns, Mayer wrote in a letter to staff that the political environment had sharply changed and the role of CEO would be vastly different after the anticipated sale of its U.S. business, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

After U.S. officials repeatedly voiced concern that TikTok could pass on American data to the Chinese Communist Party, on August 6 Trump gave TikTok’s owner, Chinese technology firm ByteDance, 45 days to sell to a U.S. buyer or it would be effectively banned. 

TikTok, which has 100 million users in the U.S., has argued that it doesn’t share data with the Chinese government and doesn’t store American data in China at all. The company sued the Trump administration on Monday in response to the president’s “highly politicized” executive order that would ban the app beginning next month.

“I understand that the role that I signed up for—including running TikTok globally—will look very different as a result of the U.S. administration’s action to push for a selloff of the U.S. business,” wrote Mayer, who left Walt Disney Co. for TikTok in May. “I’ve always been globally focused in my work, and leading a global team that includes TikTok U.S. was a big draw for me.”

The app’s current U.S. general manager Vanessa Pappas will step in as interim head of TikTok. 

Reported potential buyers of the social media platform’s operations in North America, Australia and New Zealand include Microsoft, Oracle and Twitter.

A TikTok spokesperson 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. We thank him for his time at the company and wish him well.”

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