TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer Resigns After 3 Months, As App’s Future Remains Uncertain

By 08/27/2020
TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer Resigns After 3 Months, As App’s Future Remains Uncertain

Just as TikTok has filed suit against the Trump administration over an executive order stating it must sell its U.S. business by Nov. 12 or face a nationwide ban, Kevin Mayer, the newly-crowned CEO of the hit app, has announced his resignation.

Mayer, who is departing TikTok after three months on the job, said the proposed sale of its U.S. business would dramatically alter his role, given that he was hired to oversee TikTok on the global stage. (TikTok is reportedly in acquisition talks with Microsoft and Oracle).

Mayer arrived at TikTok on June 1, having formerly served as one of the top execs at Disney — marking a major get for TikTok and also sign of validation in America, amid repeated rumblings that the app’s Chinese ownership posed a security threat for U.S. users. Trump’s order alleges that TikTok shares user data with the Chinese government — a claim that the company has repeatedly denied, noting that TikTok does not operate in China, and that its user data is stored in the U.S. and Singapore.

“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,” Mayer wrote in a resignation letter to employees obtained by CNBC. “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,” Mayer continued, “what I see for our future, or the belief I have in what we are building.”

Following Mayer’s departure, TikTok U.S. general manager Vanessa Pappas will serve as the company’s interim global head.

A TikTok spokesperson told CNBC, “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.”

Mayer, who was once reported to succeed Bob Iger as CEO of Disney, most recently served as Disney’s chairman of direct-to-consumer and international. He was also a key architect behind the launch of Disney+.

During his short tenure at TikTok, Mayer was a fiery defender of the app, striking out at Facebook last month for launching a number of copycat products (including now-defunct Lasso and Instagram’s Reels) while CEO Mark Zuckerberg simultaneously leveled criticisms about TikTok’s ties to China. “To those who wish to launch competitive products, we say bring it on,” Mayer wrote in a blog post, characterizing Zuckerberg’s criticisms as “maligning attacks…disguised as patriotism and designed to put an end to our very presence in the U.S.”