Kevin Mayer has resigned as TikTok CEO and ByteDance's COO on August 26.
Disney veteran Mayer joined ByteDance May this year. He was previously chairman of Disney's Direct-to-Consumer & International division, which operates a slew of on-demand streaming services including Disney+ and ESPN+.
"I decided to join this company this spring because ByteDance is utterly unique and it offered the opportunity to play a leadership role in a company that is changing the global internet landscape," wrote Mayer in his departure letter to the company.
Vanessa Pappas, head of TikTok's US operations, has been named TikTok's interim CEO.
The news came as US President Trump ordered TikTok to be banned next month, who also instructed ByteDance to fully divest TikTok within by November.
ByteDance is reportedly in talks with numerous US tech companies including Microsoft, Twitter, Netflix, Oracle, etc. to sell TikTok's US operation.
TikTok has filed a lawsuit on Monday against the US for lack of due process in the ban order.
"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 wrote, signaling that a conclusion of the talks to sell TikTok may be imminent.
Mayer said that it is his understanding that the role he 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," which was the reason of his departure.
ByteDance founder and Global CEO Zhang Yiming sent out an internal letter today to global employees confirming the news, wishing Mayer well.
Zhang said that he "fully understand that the resulting outcome that we land upon due to the political circumstances we are operating within could have significant impact on [Mayer's] job in any scenario, but particularly given his global role while he's based in the US."
Here's Zhang's letter:
I trust that you've all seen Kevin's note. I want to give you a few thoughts on this.
First, I want to thank Kevin, who joined us just as we were entering arguably our most challenging moment, in India and the US in particular. 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. Kevin spoke to me, and I fully understand that the resulting outcome that we land upon due to the political circumstances we are operating within could have significant impact on his job in any scenario, but particularly given his global role while he's based in the US. I thank Kevin for his efforts towards a resolution to these issues and wish him well.
Secondly, I want to let everyone know that we are moving quickly to find resolutions to the issues that we face globally, particularly in the US and India. I cannot get into details at this point, but I can assure you that we are developing solutions that will be in the interest of users, creators, partners, and employees.
Third, I'm pleased to tell you that Vanessa has been named interim head of TikTok, effective immediately. As you all know, Vanessa has been a rock on our team, providing intelligence, empathy, and thoughtfulness. She has helped lead the success of TikTok in the US since the start of 2019, joining when we had a small (but highly talented) team in the US. She is the right person to take TikTok forward as the platform continues to reach new audiences, inspire creativity, and bring joy to our users.
Finally, I want all of you to know that I really appreciate the endless hours that you have worked, shutting out the noise around us to focus instead on our mission and what we are building for those who rely upon our platform. The entire team is doing an incredible job, competing effectively against some of the biggest technology companies in the world to win the hearts and minds of users and brands, by offering a truly unique online experience.
Thank you for all of your hard work, and your dedication.
Here's Mayer's departure letter:
I decided to join this company this spring because ByteDance is utterly unique and it offered the opportunity to play a leadership role in a company that is changing the global internet landscape. Since joining, I have been incredibly impressed with the team and the company.
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.
I want to be clear that this decision has nothing to do with the company, what I see for our future, or the belief I have in what we are building. Yiming understands my decision and I thank him for his support on this.
As we look to the next phase of this company, there is no doubt that the future is incredibly bright. For our users, any potential structural changes should not affect their experience, and I strongly believe that our community will be more creative and diverse than ever. The platform will continue to provide our global community an amazing and integrated experience as it does today. Similarly, from an employee perspective, I believe that the vast majority of work will be unchanged.
At the same time, I understand that the role that 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. I've always been globally focused in my work, and leading a global team that includes TikTok US was a big draw for me.
The great news is that the TikTok team will be in the incredibly capable hands of Vanessa, who will serve as interim head for TikTok globally. She has fearlessly led operations in the US, and won the trust of our employees, creators, users, and partners. I am extremely grateful for the time that I was able to work with her and wish her success.
In my short time here, I have been amazed at the passion and dedication of our teams, particularly given the political criticism that we have faced. Like all companies in our space, we face challenges, but I have tremendous confidence that we have a world-class security team in place working to make people on our platform safe, and an amazing global team that makes this such a unique, creative, and inclusive platform.
Thank you for all of your work during this period, and at heart I will always be a member of the ByteDance team, rooting for all of you.