Three months ago Kevin Mayer left his job running Disney’s direct to consumer streaming business because he was on to bigger things. He got the opportunity to run the fast growing social video app, TikTok while serving as COO of its multi-billion dollar parent company ByteDance.
However, since signing on. TikTok became a pawn in Trump’s battle with China. As a result, Mayer announced he would be quitting due to the changes that occurred at the company and how they affected his role as CEO. He resigned on Aug. 26 citing changes to “the global role (he) signed up for.”
Lightshed media analyst Rich Greenfield backs Mayer on this saying, “The entire job that he was hired to do has dramatically changed so it doesn’t surprise me that he’s leaving.” Neither Mayer nor any TikTok representatives were available for comment.
Since Trump’s August executive order to ban TikTok after 90 days, the company has been dealing with several changes. ByteDance was forced to swoop in for a quick acquisition of the app’s U.S. business. This significantly limited Mayer’s global scope. In addition, the app was also banned in India, its top market per download.
While Oracle, Microsoft and Walmart had been teaming up to bid on the app, they have since backed down due to new Chinese export restrictions. In light of this development, ByteDance chose another bidder whose identity could be revealed any day now.
In the meantime, the company is trying to figure out what impact the Chinese regulations will have technology exports regarding the sale of the algorithm that personalizes TikTok’s “For You” feed, a feature that helps make the app so engaging. Any bidder would want to access the algorithm so TikTok is trying to figure out a way to make that possible.
Meanwhile, Trump’s moves to ban TikTok are still in action. The President argues that the app poses a national security threat. Clayton Dube, director of the USC U.S. China institute calls Trump’s claims dubious saying. “It’s an unusual circumstance, and in some ways it’s reciprocal because it’s treating the companies of a rival in a discriminatory way. It’s similar to what China has done.”
TikTok has sued Trump claiming the ban is a pretext for furthering a “broader campaign of anti-China rhetoric in the run-up to the U.S. election.”
The app appears to be on Trump’s radar because it’s a Chinese owned company that has had significant influence with U.S. audiences. In the past two years, its user base has grown by 800% rising to 100 million active monthly users. Its followers will surely celebrate if a buyer emerges. Unfortunately, Mayer, who has led the company through a difficult summer, will not be there to join in with the festivities.