Zhang Yiming, the Chinese billionaire co-founder of ByteDance the parent company of TikTok, announced on Thursday he will step down as CEO of the multi-billion dollar company.
“The truth is, I lack some of the skills that make an ideal manager”, Zhang said in an unusually candid open memo by one of Asia’s billionaires.
“I’m more interested in analyzing organizational and market principles… than actually managing people,” Zhang said.
The 38-year-old also added that he is “not very social, preferring solitary activities like being online, reading, listening to music, and daydreaming about what may be possible”.
Zhang will step down by the end of the year and transition to a new role focusing on “long-term strategy”, the memo said. Liang Rubo, the co-owner of ByteDance will take over as the new CEO.
ByteDance said Zhang and Liang “will work side by side over the next six months to ensure the smoothest possible transition.”
Zhang has been under enormous pressure to convince the U.S and the rest of the world that TikTok will not transfer data to China’s Communist Party, while also protecting his image at home by not appearing to give in to Western demands. TikTok is ByteDance’s wildly popular short-video app.
In September last year, Trump’s administration said it will block new downloads of TikTok videos and also ban the Chinese-owned messaging and payment app WeChat due to national security concerns.
Prior to the statement, U.S tech giant Microsoft indicated interest to acquire TikTok. President Trump gave its parent company ByteDance 45 days to discuss the acquisition. The deal which was expected to run into tens of billions at that time, did not materialize.
TikTok is believed to have around one billion users worldwide including more than 100 million in the United States. The firm has insisted it would never provide user data to the Chinese government.
The news of Zhang’s resignation also comes as Beijing clamps down on the unprecedented influence of some of China’s big tech companies.
E-commerce giant Alibaba was fined 18.2 billion yuan ($2.78 billion) last month as part of a push by regulators to curtail the dominant powers of the tech giants.
As Alibaba’s problems mounted, its founder Jack Ma has been unusually absent from the spotlight after speculation that brash comments by him to regulators brought the hammer down on his firm.
Bytedance, the multinational internet technology company was among 34 tech companies summoned by regulators in April that were told to undergo “complete rectification” and “heed the warning” of Alibaba.
ByteDance now has more than 60,000 staff in 30 countries and last year Zhang said they were looking to recruit around 40,000 more.