Enlarge /. TikTok's US operations could soon be part of all cool teenagers' favorite conglomerates, Microsoft and Walmart.
Kevin Mayer, CEO of TikTok, who only started his job on June 1, is right out the door as the company plans to sell under White House pressure.
"In the last few weeks, when the political environment has changed dramatically, I have thought intensively about what the structural changes in the company require and what this means for the global role I signed up for," Mayer wrote late in one Email the TikTok staff Wednesday. "With this in mind, and as we expect a solution to be found soon, I had a heavy heart to let you all know that I have decided to leave the company."
Praising the efforts of the staff, Mayer said, "There is no doubt the future [of TikTok] is incredibly bright." At the same time, he added, "I understand that the role I signed up for – including leading TikTok worldwide – will be very different because of the US government's actions to push for a sell-off of the US business. "
By this spring, Mayer was one of Disney's top managers, where he successfully led the launch of the Disney + streaming service. In February, however, he was unexpectedly passed over to replace outgoing Disney CEO Bob Iger in favor of Bob Chapek. Three months later, he announced that he was going to jump a ship to TikTok, spawning dozens of stories about TikTok's meteoric growth and its potential to make it big as a media force.
TikTok said in its official statement on Mayer's departure, "We know that the political dynamics of the past few months have significantly changed the scope of Kevin's future role and we fully respect his decision."
Not the job he signed up for
Although TikTok's popularity skyrocketed in the 2020 pandemic, the company itself battled the Trump administration. Earlier this month, the White House declared the existence of TikTok – along with another Chinese app, WeChat – a national emergency and issued an executive order effectively banning its operation within the US.
TikTok has repeatedly denied government claims to share US user data with China, filing a lawsuit on Monday alleging that the orders were unconstitutional and politically driven by a "political campaign against China" ahead of the November election.
President Donald Trump issued a personal ultimatum on Aug. 3, telling TikTok that it had until Sept. 15 to sell to a U.S. buyer if it wanted to continue operating in the U.S. Microsoft publicly confirmed at the time that it was considering an opportunity to acquire TikTok's U.S. assets and has since been considered a leading competitor for an acquisition.
However, today Walmart unexpectedly announced that it has teamed up with Microsoft to jointly participate in the deal.
Walmart wants TikTok for its e-commerce and advertising integration potential, the company said. "We believe that a potential relationship with Tik Tok US in partnership with Microsoft could add this key functionality and provide Walmart with an important way to reach and serve omnichannel customers and grow our marketplace and third-party advertising business."
Walmart added, "We are confident that a partnership between Walmart and Microsoft will meet the expectations of US Tik Tok users as well as the concerns of US government agencies."
Sources told CNBC that TikTok is expected to announce a sale from Trump "as early as next week" before September 15, and that the transaction is expected to be worth between $ 20 billion and $ 30 billion.