On Aug. 27, at 12: 14 PM, Beijing local time, Kevin Mayer sent out an all-staff internal letter and announced to resign as global COO of ByteDance. Six minutes after at 12:20 PM, Zhang Yiming followed up the email, claiming he “understands” Mayer’s decision, while appointing Vanessa Pappas, currently general manager of TikTok, to be the interim head of TikTok.
Just three months ago in May 2020, Kevin Mayer resigned from The Walt Disney Company to join ByteDance as global COO where he also served as CEO of its social media app TikTok.
Mayer noted that the “political environment has sharply changed” in the letter but stated that his decision “has nothing to do with the company” and “Yiming understands (his) decision.”
The former Disney executive made the decision to leave after President Donald Trump ordered a ban on TikTok unless ByteDance sold its US assets to an American company within 90 days. Potential buyers of TikTok’s US operation includes Microsoft, Twitter and Oracle, which has deep ties to the current US administration.
Original email and Zhang Yiming’s additional note
I decided to join this company this spring because ByteDance is utterly unique and it offered the opportunity to play a leadership role in a company that is changing the global internet landscape. Since joining, I have been incredibly impressed with the team and the company.
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. 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, what I see for our future, or the belief I have in what we are building. Yiming understands my decision and I thank him for his support on this.
As we look to the next phase of this company, there is no doubt that the future is incredibly bright. For our users, any potential structural changes should not affect their experience, and I strongly believe that our community will be more creative and diverse than ever. The platform will continue to provide our global community an amazing and integrated experience as it does today. Similarly, from an employee perspective, I believe that the vast majority of work will be unchanged.
At the same time, I understand that the role that I signed up for–including running TikTok globally–will look very different as a result of the US Administration’s action to push for a sell off of the US business. I’ve always been globally focused in my work, and leading a global team that includes TikTok US was a big draw for me.
The great news is that the TikTok team will be in the incredibly capable hands of Vanessa, who will serve as interim head for TikTok globally. She has fearlessly led operations in the US, and won the trust of our employees, creators, users, and partners. I am extremely grateful for the time that I was able to work with her and wish her success.
In my short time here, I have been amazed at the passion and dedication of our teams, particularly given the political criticism that we have faced. Like all companies in our space, we face challenges, but I have tremendous confidence that we have a world-class security team in place working to make people on our platform safe, and an amazing global team that makes this such a unique, creative, and inclusive platform.
Thank you for all of your work during this period, and at heart I will always be a member of the ByteDance team, rooting for all of you.
I trust that you’ve all seen Kevin’s note. I want to give you a few thoughts on this.
First, I want to thank Kevin, who joined us just as we were entering arguably our most challenging moment, in India and the US in particular. It is never easy to come into a leadership position in a company moving as quickly as we are, and the circumstances following his arrival made it all the more complex. Kevin spoke to me, and I fully understand that the resulting outcome that we land upon due to the political circumstances we are operating within could have significant impact on his job in any scenario, but particularly given his global role while he’s based in the US. I thank Kevin for his efforts towards a resolution to these issues and wish him well.
Secondly, I want to let everyone know that we are moving quickly to find resolutions to the issues that we face globally, particularly in the US and India. I cannot get into details at this point, but I can assure you that we are developing solutions that will be in the interest of users, creators, partners, and employees.
Third, I’m pleased to tell you that Vanessa has been named interim head of TikTok, effective immediately. As you all know, Vanessa has been a rock on our team, providing intelligence, empathy, and thoughtfulness. She has helped lead the success of TikTok in the US since the start of 2019, joining when we had a small (but highly talented) team in the US. She is the right person to take TikTok forward as the platform continues to reach new audiences, inspire creativity, and bring joy to our users.
Finally, I want all of you to know that I really appreciate the endless hours that you have worked, shutting out the noise around us to focus instead on our mission and what we are building for those who rely upon our platform. The entire team is doing an incredible job, competing effectively against some of the biggest technology companies in the world to win the hearts and minds of users and brands, by offering a truly unique online experience.
Thank you for all of your hard work, and your dedication.