New TikTok Chief Executive Departs Over U.S.-China Battle

TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer quit the company only months after assuming the role. The company’s general manager Vanessa Pappas will become the interim chief. Sources stated that Mayer, formerly of Disney, decided to leave TikTok after President Trump issued a ban on the popular social platform unless its Chinese parent company ByteDance sold its assets to a U.S. company within 90 days. Mayer’s resignation letter stated that he had reflected on “what the corporate structural changes will require, and what it means for the global role I signed up for.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that Mayer added, “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 sell off of the U.S. business.” Sources said that Mayer didn’t expect that TikTok would become involved in rising U.S.-China tensions. “He didn’t sign up for this,” said one source. Another added that, “he will have to align himself with both his Chinese masters and public scrutiny in the U.S.”

The New York Times reports that, according to sources, “the talks have covered everything from selling just TikTok’s North American operations all the way to every part of TikTok, minus ByteDance’s Chinese-only video app Douyin.” A deal price has ranged “from $20 billion to $50 billion depending on what parts of TikTok will be sold.”

At the University of California in Berkeley, law professor Steven Davidoff Solomon noted that the U.S. forcing the sale was “really unprecedented.” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin called Trump’s executive order a “naked act of bullying,” adding that the U.S. will “reap what it sows.”

Microsoft and TikTok officials were reportedly shocked when Trump stated that “any deal should help the U.S. government in some way, perhaps in the form of job creation or other economic benefits, or some kind of offering to the Treasury Department.” The 45-day window also “put TikTok at a disadvantage in negotiating the best deal.”

Twitter reportedly held talks about a potential combination with TikTok, while Oracle and Walmart have since appeared as additional suitors. According to NYT, two competing offers have emerged to acquire TikTok’s U.S. operations: “One of the bids was from Microsoft and Walmart, which have teamed up, and the other was from Oracle and could include a coalition of investors.”

Bloomberg reports that, in the United Kingdom, prime minister “Boris Johnson’s top advisers may impose restrictions on TikTok’s activities [there], but are likely to stop short of blocking plans by the Chinese-owned social media app to set up an international headquarters in London.” According to one source, Johnson’s chief of staff Eddie Lister “is likely to find the app doesn’t pose as big a security threat as Huawei … but may still recommend the government stops the company from moving users’ data out of the country.”

Conservative lawmaker Iain Duncan Smith stated that, “with a flashy campus in the UK, ByteDance would be free to masquerade as a British equivalent to Facebook or Google, gaining credibility in London.” Conservative Party lawmaker Tom Tugendhat, who chairs Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, tweeted last month that, “TikTok is a form of surveillance malware.”

This month, TikTok also said it plans to build a site in Dublin to store European users’ data.