TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer has stepped down just three months after joining, the company has confirmed to Rolling Stone. Mayer’s resignation comes as TikTok’s future remains uncertain as President Trump has repeatedly explored a potential ban of the Chinese-owned app in the U.S. over alleged national security threats.
Mayer announced his departure through an emailed letter to employees Wednesday evening. In the letter, obtained by Rolling Stone, Mayer points out the rapidly changing political environment TikTok has faced since he joined the company. Vanessa Pappas, TikTok’s U.S. general manager, will run the company on an interim basis, Mayer said.
“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. “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 joined TikTok in May, previously serving as Disney’s chairman of direct-to-consumer and international, and he helped with the successful launch of Disney+ and ESPN+ along with integrating the two apps in a package offering with Hulu.
Trump issued multiple executive orders against TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, with the latest setting a 90-day deadline for the company to sell off its U.S. TikTok operations. TikTok sued the federal government over the executive orders on Monday. Amid that news, Microsoft emerged as an early front-runner to acquire TikTok’s U.S. operations, confirming its interest in buying the company earlier in August.
“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,” Mayer wrote in his letter to employees. “I’ve always been globally focused in my work, and leading a global team that includes TikTok US was a big draw for me.”
TikTok has grown exponentially since 2018, with over 100 million users in the U.S., TikTok’s lawsuit revealed. The service has become a major marketing and artist discovery tool in the music industry, with most of this year’s biggest hits breaking on the app first.
“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,” TikTok said in a statement. “We thank him for his time at the company and wish him well.”
Read Mayer’s full letter below:
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.