TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media platform that has reached massive popularity with American teens, has poached from the upper ranks of the Walt Disney Company to find its new CEO.
Kevin Mayer — who headed Disney’s streaming efforts and oversaw the launch of Disney+ last year — will now lead TikTok and take on the role of chief operating officer at parent company ByteDance. Mayer will report to Zhang Yiming, ByteDance’s founder and CEO.
“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to join the amazing team at ByteDance,” Mayer said in a statement on Monday. “Like everyone else, I’ve been impressed watching the company build something incredibly rare in TikTok – a creative, positive online global community – and I’m excited to help lead the next phase of ByteDance’s journey as the company continues to expand its breadth of products across every region of the world.”
TikTok has come under scrutiny for its relationship with China’s Communist rulers. Senators Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Rick Scott (R-FL) introduced a bill in March seeking to ban federal employees from using the TikTok app on their government-issued phones, due to security concerns.
Sen. Hawley noted that ByteDance has Chinese Communist Party members on its board and is required by law to share user data with Beijing.
A class action lawsuit filed in December alleged that TikTok sent “vast quantities” of data on American users to China and that TikTok “surreptitiously” took content from users without consent.
Parent company ByteDance is focusing on global expansion by building off the global success of TikTok, which is popular among teenagers. CEO Zhang recently told Reuters that he hopes to one day see ByteDance as a fully global company like Google and Facebook.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek said in a separate release that Mayer had done a “masterful job” in overseeing Disney’s portfolio of streaming options. “Having worked alongside Kevin for many years on the senior management team, I am enormously grateful to him for his support and friendship and wish him tremendous success going forward,” Chapek said.