Founder of TikTok’s Chinese owner stepping down as CEO

The founder of TikTok’s Chinese owner has said he will give up his job as CEO to focus on longer-term initiatives.

The move comes amid uncertainty over whether the US government will force the sale of the popular short video service’s US arm.

Zhang Yiming said Liang Rubo, a co-founder, will succeed him as ByteDance CEO. Mr Zhang said leaving day-to-day management will “enable me to have greater impact on longer-term initiatives” but gave no details of his next role.

ByteDance is waiting to find out whether US President Joe Biden’s administration will revive former president Donald Trump’s efforts to force the sale of TikTok’s US arm. Mr Trump said the service was a security threat because it gathered too much personal information about millions of American users.

The TikTok app on a smartphone
ByteDance said last year that TikTok had 700 million users globally (Peter Byrne/PA)

Regulators are also stepping up anti-monopoly enforcement against Chinese e-commerce giants and other internet companies, though there is no indication ByteDance has been targeted.

Mr Zhang founded ByteDance in 2012. Its first short-video platform, Douyin, was launched in 2016. TikTok was launched outside China the following year. The company said last year that TikTok had 700 million users globally.

ByteDance, which has its headquarters in Beijing, says it operates in 150 markets and has more than 60,000 employees.

The Trump administration’s plan called for ByteDance to be required to sell TikTok’s US arm to the software maker Oracle and retailer Walmart. The Biden administration, which took office in January, suspended that while it reviewed potential security threats posed by Chinese tech companies.