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Zhang Yiming, the co-founder of Chinese tech giant ByteDance, parent company of TikTok, is stepping down from his role as chief executive. He will be succeeded by Liang Rubo, a fellow co-founder and current head of human resources. Zhang announced the leadership change in an internal memo to staff Thursday.
The leadership shake-up marks the most significant change at ByteDance since its founding in 2012. During that time, the firm has grown to become China’s most successful consumer-facing technology company, disrupting the U.S. social media landscape with its innovative and irresistible approach to shortform video.
Zhang told the company’s employees that he was stepping back from his leadership position to focus on the firm’s long-term strategy. “After handing over my role as CEO, and removing myself from the responsibilities of daily management, I will have the space to explore long-term strategies, organizational culture and social responsibility, with a more objective perspective on the company,” he wrote.
Zhang is expected to retain his role as ByteDance’s chairman. The executive said that his decision to step back from day-to-day operations came after months of personal reflection.
“The truth is, I lack some of the skills that make an ideal manager. I’m more interested in analyzing organizational and market principles, and leveraging these theories to further reduce management work, rather than actually managing people,” he wrote. “Similarly, I’m not very social, preferring solitary activities like being online, reading, listening to music, and contemplating what may be possible,” he added.
The leadership changes at ByteDance’s Beijing headquarters come less than a month after ByteDance named its chief financial officer Shou Zi Chew, based in Singapore, as CEO of TikTok.
ByteDance has sought a lower profile in geopolitical affairs following a tumultuous period during the Trump Administration, when the former president singled out the firm as a potential national security threat, ordering that it divest control of TikTok, and U.S. consumers’ data, to an American firm or face a ban in the U.S. A hastily assembled deal for Oracle and Walmart to take control of TikTok’s American business has since unraveled, however.
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