TikTok Executives Reassure Employees After CEO Exit

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TikTok held a virtual town hall meeting with thousands of U.S. and European employees on Thursday to reassure them that they still have jobs and promised more clarity on the future of the besieged video-app soon, according to people familiar with details of the event.

The meeting came after the surprise resignation of Chief Executive Officer Kevin Mayer. The former longtime Walt Disney Co. executive is leaving TikTok after only three months at the helm. In a letter to employees Wednesday, he cited the Trump administration’s push for the app’s Chinese parent, ByteDance Ltd., to sell its U.S. operations due to national security concerns. Many employees who were sleeping when Mayer sent a letter to staff late Wednesday woke up to the news reports, or were informed during early morning meetings.

TikTok Executives Reassure Employees After CEO Exit

“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 in an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg.

Oracle Corp. and Microsoft Corp. have submitted bids to ByteDance for TikTok’s U.S. operations in a deal that could come within the week, people familiar with the matter said. Microsoft’s bid includes a partnership with Walmart Inc., which would also take a stake in the company and help TikTok expand its e-commerce operations.

During the hour-long town hall, employees lobbed a stream of anonymous questions to interim TikTok chief Vanessa Pappas, general counsel Erich Andersen and Blake Chandlee, vice president of global business solutions.

The executives acknowledged media reports of bids by Oracle and Microsoft-Walmart and assured employees that they will be able to tell them a lot more in the next couple of weeks. The town hall had already been scheduled for Thursday, but the company moved it a few hours earlier to address employee concerns.

The executives answered questions about Mayer’s departure and whether the decision was mutual, striking a calm yet upbeat tone and telling people not to worry about their paychecks or let the corporate drama interrupt day-to-day operations, one person said.

For weeks, chatter among TikTok employees about what some have begun to refer to as “D-Day,” or simply “Sept. 15” have popped up in video meetings and the company’s internal messaging app, Lark. The date was originally set by U.S. President Donald Trump for a potential ban on the app if it was not sold to an American buyer by then. But the president later issued a separate order with a 90-day deadline.

Pappas has been scrolling through the Lark threads and responding to employees’ concerns in hopes of heading off any unsubstantiated rumors and calming fears.

In an interview with Bloomberg last week, Pappas said she’s made clear to TikTok’s employees and business partners that the company strongly disagrees with the Trump administration’s stance and that TikTok will remain in the U.S. regardless of the threats to shut it down. She said the company had “multiple paths forward” depending on what happens.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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