May 29, 2024

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V Pappas is stepping down at TikTok as new CEOs are named

TikTok’s chief operating officer, V Pappas, resigned on Thursday after five years of helping turn what was once an obscure short-video service into one of the world’s most popular apps, signaling a potential broader transformation for the Chinese tech giant as it confronts it. . Battle for survival in Washington.

Pappas was TikTok’s most senior executive in the US and was the interim chairman prior to the appointment of the current head of TikTok, Xu Ziqiu. Pappas has stepped down from his position to “refocus on their entrepreneurial passions,” said Chiu, who is based in Singapore, in an email to employees Thursday, obtained by The Washington Post.

Chew also announced the promotion of TikTok Chief of Staff Adam Presser to Chief Operating Officer and the appointment of a Disney veteran, Zenia Mucha, to become the company’s Chief Brand and Communications Officer. He said the changes are meant to “evolve” the organizational structure of the company, which says it now has more than 1 billion monthly active users around the world, including more than 100 million in the United States.

Presser, a former WarnerMedia executive, will be responsible for global operations and over the past year has led the management of internal initiatives such as Project Clover, a European Union data security proposal similar to the company’s efforts in the United States, Project Texas, Chew said. Mucha has been Disney’s biggest spokesperson for more than 20 years as the media empire gobbled up franchises like Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar and opened China’s first theme park.

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“This is a huge moment for TikTok,” said Reuven Ashtar, CEO of creator management firm Never Napping. “It signals a shift that will get to the heart of whether and how TikTok remains a hub for creators and can transition into the embrace of Hollywood and the media.”

TikTok creators said Thursday they see Pappas as a hero to their work and wondered how TikTok’s culture might change with someone else running the show. Pappas has spent years building close relationships with the video makers and influencers who have become the lifeblood of modern social media, having served on a formative team at YouTube that coined the term “creator” in its modern usage.

Inside the TikTok Creator’s Lounge at VidCon’s annual online video conference in Anaheim, where TikTok is a title sponsor, many expressed surprise Thursday at the departure. And many wondered what the change would mean for their incomes, which for some are significant.

VidCon itself has become a symbol of TikTok’s prominence in the short video world. Until 2021, the primary sponsor of the convention was YouTube. Then TikTok took over that role, and its annual party has become one of VidCon’s most coveted events. Last year, Pappas, who left YouTube for TikTok in 2018, gave a keynote address at the conference, courting creators on the TikTok platform, rather than its short-video competitors.

“V has become synonymous with TikTok in the creator economy,” said Brendan Gahan, partner at creative agency Mekanism. “She’s incredibly well respected. … TikTok is a powerhouse today in large part because of the work she’s done.”

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The announcement of Pappas’ departure was also greeted with alarm among some TikTok employees, two of whom told The Post that recent reorganizations have contributed to creating a sense of disarray within the company. Eric Hahn, US President of Trust and Safety, left the company last month.

Pappas once served as the face of the company on Capitol Hill, including during a fiery hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in September, in which members of Congress grilled the CEO about the Chinese roots of TikTok parent ByteDance. That role has now been taken over by Chiu, who was criticized by lawmakers during a five-hour hearing in March.

It is not known what effect Pappas’ departure might have on TikTok’s ongoing negotiations with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the federal agency that reviews companies’ deals on national security grounds. Those conversations were led by ByteDance’s chief attorney, former Microsoft CEO Eric Andersen.

Biden administration officials pushed ByteDance to sell the company, even though the Chinese government has said it would staunchly oppose any forced sale. TikTok said it is a private company that is not affected by the Chinese government.

Pappas, who previously used the name Vanessa, came out as non-binary in February and preferred the pronouns they/them.

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Pappas led TikTok through a rocky period after Kevin Mayer, also a former Disney executive, stepped down as CEO after just a few months in 2020, citing frustration with the political tension between TikTok and the Trump administration.

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Where Chew is reserved for public appearances, Pappas is known for his more outspoken approach. In March, Pappas told Los Angeles summit attendees that some US lawmakers’ suspicions of TikTok’s relationship with China were based on “xenophobia.”

in Note to the staff On Thursday, Pappas said they would take on an advisory role at the company, but gave no other indication of future work.

“I bet on what was then a completely unknown company and product and followed my instinct,” Pappas wrote. “Five years later, we have grown into a world class team of thousands. … I finally feel the time is right to move on.”

The executive shift comes as TikTok struggles to secure its dominance in the online market for fast, colorful video, including competing entrants from US tech giants Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

“There’s clearly a race to be the platform that monetizes short enough content for creators to be interested in,” Jordan Matter, a Los Angeles-based family content creator with more than 5 million followers on TikTok. “YouTube has so far come the closest to that, so for TikTok to maintain its status as the short-form giant, they will have to find a way to monetize content more importantly.”