TikTok CEO quits as company reportedly plans sale to Microsoft, Walmart

Enlarge / TikTok's US operations may soon be part of every cool teen's favorite conglomerates, Microsoft and Walmart.SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer, who only began the job on June 1, is heading right back out the door again as the company plans a sale under pressure from the White House.

"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 an email to TikTok employees late Wednesday. "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 praised employees' efforts, saying that "there is no doubt that the future [of TikTok] is incredibly bright." But at the same time, he added, "I understand that the role that I signed up for—including running TikTok globally—will look very different as a result of the US Administrations action to push for a sell off of the US business."

Until this spring, Mayer was one of Disney's top executives, where he successfully headed the launch of the Disney+ streaming service. In February, however, he was unexpectedly passed over to succeed outgoing Disney CEO Bob Iger in favor of Bob Chapek. Three months later he announced he was jumping ship to TikTok, in a move that spawned dozens of stories about TikTok's meteoric growth and its potential to make it big as a force in media.

TikTok, in its official statement on Mayer's departure, said, "We appreciate that the political dynamics of the last few months have significantly changed what the scope of Kevins role would be going forward, and fully respect his decision."

Not the job he signed up for

Even as TikTok's popularity has skyrocketed amid the 2020 pandemic, though, the company itself has been struggling against the Trump administration. Earlier this month, the White House declared the existence of TikTok—along with another Chinese app, WeChat—to be a national emergency and issued an executive order that would effectively ban it from operating inside the United States.

TikTok has repeatedly denied the administration's allegations that it shares US user data with China, and it filed suit on Monday alleging that the orders are unconstitutional and politically driven by an "anti-China political campaign" ahead of the November election.

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