May 20, 2021 - Economy & Business

Founder of TikTok owner ByteDance to step down as CEO

Zhang Yiming, chief executive officer and founder of Bytedance Ltd., poses for a photograph in Beijing, China, on Thursday, April 11, 2019.

Zhang Yiming, founder of Bytedance, in Beijing, China, in 2019. Photo: Gilles Sabrie/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Zhang Yiming, co-founder of TikTok owner ByteDance, is stepping down as CEO and moving to a new role, the company said in a memo released Thursday.

Why it matters: The replacement of Zhang with human resources chief Liang Rubo, another TikTok co-founder, marks the "biggest corporate shake-up" at the firm since it launched in 2012, going on to become a major social media player in China and turning TikTok into a massive global force, per Reuters, which first reported the news.

The big picture: The move follows a tumultuous few months for the Chinese-owned company, which former President Trump regularly criticized.

What to expect: Zhang will move into a "key strategy" position later in the year.

  • In the meantime, he and Liang "will work side by side over the next six months to ensure the smoothest possible transition," ByteDance said in the memo.

What they're saying: "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 the memo 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."

Of note: Last month, TikTok named ByteDance CFO Shouzi Chew as its CEO, and Vanessa Pappas, who previously served as interim head of the company, as the video-sharing platform's COO after TikTok's former CEO Kevin Mayer resigned during tensions with Trump.

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