The chief executive officer of ByteDance, Zhang Yiming, will step down from his position to focus on long-term goals for the company by the end of the year, the company announced on Thursday.
ByteDance is the China-based parent company of the video-sharing app, TikTok — which is particularly popular among younger social media users.
Zhang will be passing the baton to a longstanding colleague and the company’s current chief of personnel, Lian Rubo. The two were also college roommates.
Why is Zhang Yiming leaving?
In a letter to employees, Zhang said he was interested in “analyzing organization and market principles, and leveraging these theories to further reduce management work, rather than actually managing people.”
He also wrote that he was not as social and enjoyed solitary activities like “being online, reading, listening to music, and contemplating what may be possible.”
He praised his successor Lian as the company’s future CEO, saying he had “strength in management, organization, and social engagement.”
Zhang’s announcement comes at a time when Chinese regulators have stepped up fines on Chinese internet giants for anti-competitive practices.
In April, Chinese antitrust regulators slapped Alibaba Group with a record $2.8 billion fine (€2.3 billion) for abusing its dominant market position.
Alibaba Group is the world’s largest e-commerce company. The fine was equivalent to 4% of the revenue the company generated in the calendar year of 2019.
Regulators are also preparing to fine gaming giant Tencent Holding with as much as $1.55 billion, according to Reuters news agency.
What will Zhang’s next steps be?
ByteDance said Zhang would move to a “key strategy” position at the end of the year.
His announcement is one of the biggest management shake-ups since the founding of the company in 2012.
ByteDance appointed its chief financial officer, Shouzi Chew, as the new chief executive officer of Tik Tok last month.
Is the US-ByteDance controversy over?
A temporary deal struck last year in September between ByteDance and US software company Oracle had allowed TikTok to continue operating in the United States.
Then-US President Donald Trump had taken aim at TikTok, accusing the app’s US branch of gathering too much personal data from Americans. TikTok denied the accusations.
However, the South China Morning Post has reported that ByteDance may have lost interest in that deal since Trump has exited office. It is unclear whether his successor, President Joe Biden, will force the sale of TikTok’s branch in the US.