Disney alum Kevin Mayer exits TikTok after three months in role

Kevin Mayer

Kevin Mayer, Disney’s former head of direct-to-consumer and international, has left his new role as CEO at TikTok just three months into the job.

Mayer joined the video app firm in May, becoming COO of Chinese parent ByteDance at the same time.

However, the Mouse House veteran said he would be stepping down following President Trump’s order earlier this month that TikTok would be banned in the US for alleged security concerns, unless it found an American buyer for its operations in the country.

TikTok’s general manager Vanessa Pappas is taking interim control, according to the FT, which broke the news early this morning.

In a memo to staff, 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.

“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 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,” he added.

ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming said he understood “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.”

For its part, TikTok added: “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.”

TikTok timing & moving on

It has been a busy summer for TikTok to date, having seen its value soar to eye-watering sums by investors. The app has also launched a $200m content fund and moved into reality formats.

However, it has also faced fierce criticism from Trump, who announced that the app – which has seen a number of security concerns surrounding the data practices of ByteDance – would be banned from the country. The administration later clarified that this would be avoidable should ByteDance divest its ownership.

Rebecca Campbell

Mayer’s exit comes as reports swirl over potential suitors for TikTok’s US-based operations. Netflix was yesterday linked with the social media behemoth, although Microsoft is seen by many as a leading candidate to acquire the division.

For the Disney exec, it marks the end of a whirlwind relationship with TikTok. His shock appointment at the company earlier this summer came after a stellar run at the Mouse House that saw him latterly overseeing the launches of Disney+, ESPN+ and the integration of Hulu.

However, his exit was not altogether surprising – Disney has recently appointed Bob Chapek as CEO, passing Mayer over despite his close ties to former chief Bob Iger.

Mayer, who only took up his new position with ByteDance on 1 June, was succeeded at Disney by Rebecca Campbell, who most recently served as president of Disneyland Resort. Prior to that, she was president of EMEA’s direct-to-consumer and international team, based out of London.


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