TikTok may consider Instagram co-founder in search for CEO

18 Sep 2020

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Reports suggest that Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom may be one of the candidates TikTok has spoken to about the vacancy at the helm of the company.

While TikTok awaits the Trump administration’s approval of its proposal to partner with Oracle, the company is still on the lookout for a new CEO.

The video-sharing social platform was previously led by Kevin Mayer, who was named CEO in May after leaving his role as Disney’s head of streaming. However, this appointment lasted only a few months, with Mayer announcing in August that he would be leaving the company.

Sources familiar with TikTok’s internal situation said that Mayer did not anticipate becoming embroiled in political tensions between the US and China when he stepped into the role.

Now, almost a month later, a report in the New York Times has said that TikTok has held preliminary talks with a number of candidates to fill the top position, including Instagram’s co-founder and former chief executive Kevin Systrom.

TikTok’s search for a new CEO

Since Mayer stepped away from the ByteDance-owned social media platform, Vanessa Pappas has taken over as chief executive in the interim. Pappas previously held the role of general manager of TikTok’s North American operations.

Sources told the New York Times that talks between Systrom and the company have been preliminary and that no final decisions have been made yet. Systrom, who left Instagram two years ago, has not commented on the reports.

The entrepreneur co-founded Instagram in 2010 with Mike Krieger, and the business was acquired by Facebook in 2012. Systrom served as CEO of the company until he and Krieger resigned in September 2018.

There is little known about any other candidates who are being considered for the role of chief executive at TikTok, but whoever takes over will potentially be in charge of creating a new partnership with Oracle and other stakeholders.

Reports of an IPO

While the Trump administration has yet to make a decision on TikTok’s proposal to partner with Oracle, more details are emerging about a potential deal.

Sources told CNBC that the social media firm is planning on selling a stake of just 20pc to Oracle. TikTok also reportedly plans to sell a stake to Walmart, but the proposed ownership structure remains unclear.

The deal was spurred by an executive order issued by US president Donald Trump in August, stating that TikTok would be banned in the US unless sold by its Chinese parent company, ByteDance. The New York Times reported that on Wednesday (16 September), Trump said he was “not going to be happy” if ByteDance still owned a majority of TikTok as part of its deal with a US company.

Sources have also said that ByteDance is planning an initial public offering (IPO) of TikTok’s global operations on the US stock exchange as a measure to address ownership concerns. The IPO is reportedly not part of the company’s formal proposal to the Trump administration, however the sources said that the US government is aware of the plan.

According to the New York Times, Trump had not been briefed on the deal proposal as of Thursday afternoon, though CNBC expects the US president to make a decision within the next day or two.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic