TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer resigned from the company on Wednesday after less than four months amid an ongoing public dispute between the company’s Chinese corporate parent and the Donald Trump administration. Vanessa Pappas will serve as interim head.
In an email to employees, a portion of which was made public Wednesday night, Mayer cited a “political environment” that “has sharply changed” for the decision.
“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,” he wrote.
Mayer said the decision “has nothing to do with the company,” or his faith in its future, adding, “For our users, any potential structural changes should not affect their experience.”
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In portions of the email not formally made public but obtained by CNN, Mayer cited the dispute with Trump — who this month threatened to ban the app altogether in the U.S. — as a specific reason for his departure. “I understand that the role I signed up for,” he said, referring to the global nature of the job, “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.”
In a statement Wednesday night, the company 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.”
“The TikTok team has worked tirelessly to make this platform a place of joy for hundreds of millions of people around the world, and we’re just getting started. Our global community is strong, authentic, and vibrant, and the creativity I see every day inspires me. It’s incredible to look back on our last couple years and see how much we’ve accomplished, and I’m even more excited for what we’ll continue to bring to our community going forward. The future for TikTok is bright,” interim head Pappas said via statement.
Mayer previously spent nearly 20 years at Disney, and oversaw the successful launch of Disney+ in 2019. But he jumped ship for TikTok after being passed over to replace Bob Iger as CEO earlier this year. Named CEO of TikTok and the chief operating officer of TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company ByteDance, Mayer entered that role during a critical time for the popular social media app.
TikTok was still trying to figure out how to monetize its huge user base, but it was also contending with regulatory concerns, and growing accusations from the Trump administration and others that it posed a national security threat. In February, TikTok paid a record $5.7 million fine to the Federal Trade Commission after it “illegally collected personal information from children” after failing to obtain parental consent of users under the age of 13. And earlier this month President Trump signed an executive order calling for TikTok to be sold by its Chinese corporate parent, Bytedance, citing what he said was “credible evidence” it “might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States.”
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Individuals with knowledge of the matter exclusively told TheWrap that Mayer was not involved in negotiations to sell TikTok, which has been courted by both Microsoft and Oracle.
Meanwhile, TikTok filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on Monday challenging the executive order, saying in court papers that it attempted in “good faith” for a year to share information on its data privacy practices with the U.S. government, but that its efforts were “disregarded.”