Kevin Mayer, the CEO of video-sharing app TikTok, has quit his post overnight in the face of an impending US ban, orchestrated by the administration of president Trump, which threatens the future of the service.
Hired with the objective of presenting a more acceptable face to the US government during negotiations, Mayer only joined TikTok in May of 2020, having previously worked for the Walt Disney Company, where he played a significant role in Disney’s acquisition of studios such as Pixar, Lucasfilm and Marvel.
In a letter to employees, Mayer said given the change to the political environment surrounding TikTok, and reflecting on what changes will be needed to the organisational structure should its US operations be banned or sold, and what that will mean for the global role he signed up to, he had decided his best option was to leave the firm.
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.”
In a leaked memo circulating online, Zhang Yiming, CEO of TikTok’s parent, Bytedance, said it was never easy to come into a leadership position when the organisation was caught up in such a fast-moving situation, and he understood the reasoning behind Mayer’s departure.
Yiming moved to reassure employees that Bytedance was “moving quickly” to resolve its global issues, particularly in the US and India, although he provided no further details.
TikTok’s US general manager Vanessa Pappas – a former YouTube executive – will take over on an interim basis, he added.
TikTok has repeatedly asserted that the ban is politically motivated on trumped up grounds, and earlier this week filed a formal complaint in the US challenging its legality.
Among other things, its legal team is arguing that the US government is acting in bad faith by disregarding evidence it has previously presented to the Committee for Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) about its activities; and that Trump is in violation of both the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), the instrument he is using to restrict it, and the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, which deals with due process.