Sep 16, 2020 - Economy

TikTok's future with Oracle

Animated illustration of text-in-progress ellipsis made up of periods stylized like the TikTok logo.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump hasn't yet blessed ByteDance's proposed savior plan for TikTok, featuring Oracle as a "trusted technology partner."

The state of play: This deal is not fait accompli, despite some media reports yesterday that there would be an announcement before nightfall. But the odds remain in its favor.

What might come next

1. CFIUS would grant an extension.

  • Trump's 45-day "deal or ban" executive order was soon followed by a 90-day requirement that ByteDance divest what now is effectively TikTok.
  • This Oracle deal is easier to execute than an acquisition would have been, but it's still highly unlikely that all of it could be completed by mid-October.

2. TikTok would drop its lawsuit against Trump's EO.

  • It's unclear if this is part of ByteDance's formal submission to CFIUS, but doing so would be a reasonable quid pro quo.

3. TikTok would hire a CEO.

  • The U.S. business is currently being led by Vanessa Pappas, a YouTube vet who was general manager before Kevin Mayer's surprise resignation.
  • She may be in the mix, but don't be surprised to see TikTok's new board scour the C-suite at companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Disney (which was Mayer's former home). Or maybe even from Walmart, which is expected to invest in the new entity.

4. "TikTok Inc." would try to consolidate.

  • TikTok is a global app, but all that's being proposed here is a tech cleave of its U.S. business. From a practical perspective, that could make it difficult for a Los Angeles user to view content created by a London user, and vice versa.
  • Given that other Western governments have expressed discomfort with ByteDance, don't be surprised if other geographies eventually get folded into the Oracle agreement. The finances could get sticky.

The bottom line: White House approval would be the beginning, not the end, of what needs to be done to create the new TikTok.

Go deeper: "Axios Re:Cap" podcast takes a look at how the TikTok saga is playing inside of China, with CNBC Beijing bureau chief Eunice Yoon. Listen via Apple, Spotify, or Axios.

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