China

CEO of TikTok Owner ByteDance to Step Down and Move Into a New Role

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  • Zhang Yiming, co-founder of ByteDance, will step down as CEO and transition to a new role, the company said on Thursday.
  • Another co-founder, Liang Rubo, who is currently head of human resources, will take over as CEO of ByteDance globally.
  • The move comes after a tumultuous nine months for ByteDance after it was dubbed a national security threat by former President Donald Trump's administration last August.

GUANGZHOU, China — Zhang Yiming, co-founder of ByteDance, will step down as CEO and transition to a new role, the company said on Thursday.

Another co-founder, Liang Rubo, who is currently head of human resources, will take over as CEO of ByteDance globally and Zhang will move into a key strategy role at the end of 2021.

"There are still many things that we need to improve, and I think someone else can better drive progress through areas like improved daily management. The truth is, I lack some of the skills that make an ideal manager," Zhang said in a note to employees.

"I'm more interested in analyzing organizational and market principles, and leveraging these theories to further reduce management work, rather than actually managing people. Similarly, I'm not very social, preferring solitary activities like being online, reading, listening to music, and daydreaming about what may be possible," he said.

ByteDance said Zhang and Liang "will work side by side over the next six months to ensure the smoothest possible transition."

U.S. troubles

The move comes after a tumultuous nine months for ByteDance after it was dubbed a national security threat by former President Donald Trump's administration last August and ordered to divest its TikTok business in the U.S. This sparked a bidding war between companies including Microsoft and Oracle.

TikTok is ByteDance's wildly popular short-video app.

In February, the Wall Street Journal reported that a deal to sell TiKTok to Oracle and Walmart had been shelved indefinitely.

Despite the trouble with the U.S., ByteDance has continued to expand its business empire under Zhang. The company was founded in 2012 when it launched a platform for sharing jokes in the form of short videos, memes and written posts.

In China, short video app Douyin has racked up hundreds of millions of users. The international version called TikTok has also done the same. In January, ByteDance launched a new payments service within Douyin to experiment with financial technology.

And in March, ByteDance acquired major gaming studio Moonton to push into the lucrative mobile gaming market and challenge the likes of Tencent and NetEase.

Management reshuffle

ByteDance has had a number of management changes over the past few months. Last August, Kevin Mayer who was hired from Disney to be the TikTok CEO, stepped down as pressure from Washington grew on the social media app.

TikTok's U.S. general manager Vanessa Pappas took over the role on an interim basis.

In March, Chew Shou Zi, the former finance chief at Xiaomi, was poached by ByteDance to become the company's chief financial officer.

Just last month, Chew was appointed the CEO of TikTok, taking over from Pappas, who is now the chief operating officer.

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