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TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer quits amid Trump ban fallout

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·Head of Yahoo Finance UK
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Kevin Mayer. Photo from 2018. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Kevin Mayer in 2018. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer has quit the company after only being in the role for 100 days.

Mayer’s resignation comes as tensions soar between US president Donald Trump’s administration and China due to the fallout over the Chinese-owned social media video platform.

In a letter to staff, Mayer said that the “political environment has sharply changed” in recent weeks.

“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,” he wrote.

“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.”

TikTok said in a statement: “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.”

Mayer only started in the role of global CEO in May after moving from Disney (DIS). As the former leader of the Direct-to-Consumer and International segment at Disney, his departure was not a huge surprise as he did not get the CEO nod to replace mentor Bob Iger.

TikTok is currently owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, whose last valuation of $78bn (£61bn) makes it the world's most valuable start-up. It only launched in September 2016 but, outside China, it has already amassed 300 million active users and 1.4 billion total installs to date. TikTok has been downloaded 175 million times in the US alone.

Trump’s administration, and a number of governments around the world, have voiced concern over TikTok being a data and security risk. Earlier this month, Trump said he wouldn’t ban the app as long as it’s US operations were under US ownership — setting a 45 day window for this to happen.

READ MORE: Microsoft reveals talks to buy TikTok US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand

On 3 August, Microsoft (MSFT) confirmed in a statement that it is not only in talks to buy US operations for TikTok, but also in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

The US tech giant said in a lengthy blog post on its site that it is exploring a “preliminary proposal” to purchase the TikTok service in those countries which “would result in Microsoft owning and operating TikTok in these markets.” It added that Microsoft “may invite other American investors to participate on a minority basis in this purchase.”

It added that it aims to complete these discussions no later than 15 September this year. Trump only agreed to allow Microsoft to negotiate the acquisition if it could secure a deal in 45 days.

Trump has since given his blessing for technology company Oracle to enter the running to buy TikTok and has mentioned separately that the US government should get a cut of the deal for introducing TikTok to a buyer.

On 6 August, Trump signed an executive order on giving Americans 45 days to stop doing business with ByteDance.

TikTok has since sued Trump’s administration over the executive order.

READ MORE: What TikTok talks with Microsoft mean for UK and London HQ

Meanwhile, countries around the world are following in Trump’s footsteps.

Norihiro Nakayama, a senior member of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party led by prime minister Shinzo Abe's ruling party, said he and the group of lawmakers charged with looking into Chinese apps would not seek to ban TikTok and others if substantial measures are taken to ensure protection of user data.

India has banned TikTok and the group itself pulled out of Hong Kong. Other countries are also mulling the same move.

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