TikTok Founder and Owner Zhang Yiming Steps Down As Chairmain: Successor Has Repeatedly Sparked Concerns

TikTok Founder and Owner Zhang Yiming Steps Down As Chairmain: Successor Has Repeatedly Sparked Concerns
Zhang Yiming, TikTok founder resigns as CEO of the company ByteDance. However, Zhang will still contribute his expertise in TikTok if needed by the company. Photo : Solen Feyissa/ Unsplash

Zhang Yiming, the 38-year-old billionaire founder of ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, has resigned from the board of directors, reigniting speculation over how much control he will keep over the world's most valuable unicorn.

However, when Zhang relinquished his chairmanship was not immediately announced to the public.

The New CEO

As reported by Reuters, the former TikTok founder Zhang has handed over his board seat on Caymans-registered ByteDance to new CEO Liang Rubo, his university roommate and long-time collaborator. 

ByteDance is a private Chinese company that founded video-sharing social networking services and apps TikTok and Douyin.

Furthermore, the company declined to respond because it is a private firm with no responsibility to publicly report changes to its board of directors.

TikTok, China's first globally successful social media company, has faced repeated questions from the US over who controls the operations of its enormously popular short video platform.

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TikTok Founder Resigns

Michael Beckerman, TikTok's manager of public policy for the Americas, told a US congressional hearing last week that the company does not share American user data with the Chinese government.

Beckerman said TikTok has "no affiliation" with ByteDance when questioned by Republican Senator Ted Cruz.

ByteDance quietly removed information about its corporate structure and board of directors from its website earlier this year, which revealed that the company had five board members, including Zhang, Sequoia Capital's Neil Shen, Coatue Management's Philippe Laffont, Susquehanna International Group's Arthur Dantchik, and General Atlantic's William Ford.

However, speculative rumors were going around that Susquehanna is looking to sell its share. The most recent information about ByteDance's board composition is not publicly available.

According to Forbes, TikTok made $34.3 Billion in revenue last year, when it became mainstream.

Although stepping down from the board, Zhang, who has a net worth of close to US$60 billion according to Forbes, will continue to be a key decision-maker behind the scenes when it comes to strategic problems, according to one source familiar with the situation.

Zhang Yiming

Zhang is still involved in internal group conversations and offering his thoughts on ByteDance's development.

The exec's departure from the spotlight comes as ByteDance announced a sweeping business restructure this week, separating TikTok as a stand-alone business unit.

In addition, Liang will supervise ByteDance's finances, allowing Singapore-based Chew Shou Zi to focus on his role as TikTok's CEO rather than his post as chief financial officer.

Zhang, who founded ByteDance in a Beijing apartment almost a decade ago, has kept a low profile in comparison to TikTok, which announced in September that it had surpassed 1 billion global monthly users.

Meanwhile its China-only sibling app Douyin has more than 600 million daily active users.

Zhang's final public appearance was in late June when he donated 500 million yuan (US$77 million) to establish an education fund in Longyan, China's eastern Fujian province. He was seen visiting his high school, which was publicized by the local education agency, according to South China Morning Post.


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