Popular Chinese short video app TikTok has appointed Shou Zi Chew, a Singaporean national, as the new Chief Executive Officer.
Mr. Chew will retain close ties to TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance where he will remain Chief Financial Officer. “We will continue building out our strong and deep management team as we set the stage for the next phase of TikTok’s success,” he said in a statement.
TikTok’s interim head Vanessa Pappas, who briefly led the company after the abrupt departure of its CEO last year, Kevin Mayer formerly of Walt Disney, will be the new chief operating officer.
“Shou brings deep knowledge of the company and industry, having led a team that was among our earliest investors. He will add depth to the team, focusing on areas including corporate governance and long-term business initiatives,” said Yiming Zhang, Founder and CEO of ByteDance.
Over the past few years as its app gained popularity in the United States, TikTok has sought to distance itself from China after an inquiry into the safety of the personal data it handles by a national security panel, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).
“If the goal is to separate TikTok from ByteDance control, appointing the current ByteDance CFO to concurrently serve as the TikTok CEO seems to run counter to that,” said experts. Also, some CFIUS lawyers played down any major impact this restructuring will have on the CFIUS review, noting that TikTok is still firmly controlled by ByteDance.
TikTok in the US
Former US president Donald Trump’s administration had alleged that TikTok posed a national security threat as China’s government might be able to obtain personal data of the app’s US users. TikTok has constantly denied the accusations.
A US plan to sell TikTok’s American operations to a group of companies in the country has been halted since late last year, as ByteDance launched successful legal challenges. CFIUS has been reviewing the deal to sell TikTok US to a consortium including tech company Oracle and retail giant Walmart.
TikTok has made moves to shift power from Beijing, where ByteDance is based, to the United States, one of its most important and fast growing markets. Last year, TikTok ramped up its engineering and moderation team in California, US, trying to base these data-sensitive positions outside of China. The company had previously said the personal data of millions of US users are stored in Virginia, with backups in Singapore.