Zhang Yiming has announced that he will step down as CEO of TikTok - the owner of ByteDance, saying he did not have the social skills to be a good manager and named his college roommate Liang Rubo to be his successor in driving the growing wave of Big Tech rules.
In a shocking announcement to workers on Thursday, first reported by Reuters and later disclosed by the company, Zhang said the change would make it "a major impact on long-term plans." He will go to the "strategic" area by the end of the year, ByteDance said.
The 38-year-old will be followed by Liang, a longtime colleague and human resources manager at ByteDance, one of the world's largest private technology companies with an estimated $ 300 million in recent jobs.
Management management - the largest ByteDance since its launch in 2012 - comes at a time when Chinese regulators are growing to be scrutinized by the country's largest technology firms.
In April, they awarded a major e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd a $ 2.8 billion fine for conducting competitive practices, and last year suspended a fintech-linked public offering Ant Group.
Anti-trust regulators have also told Tencent Holdings they are preparing to fine the $ 1.55 billion giant, Reuters reported last month.
Zhang, who turned B ByDDance into a social media platform, said he was not really a social activist.
He blamed the CEO's daily challenges as obstacles to research and innovation, while calling Liang a "very important partner" and "the power to manage, organize and socially engage".
"I am interested in analyzing organizational and market policies, and using these ideas to reduce administrative work, rather than control people," wrote Zhang, who will continue as chairman, in the memo.
"As such, I am not a person who likes to have fun, I like to do things on my own like going online, reading, listening to music and thinking about what might happen."
In an internal statement seen by Reuters, Liang, also 38, said the new role represented a "major challenge" that was "under great pressure."
Liang, not a Chinese name, lives with Zhang at Nankai University in Tianjin, China. He also worked with her on the housing website 99fang.com before joining ByteDance.
'Making wise and necessary choices'
Technical co-ordinator Zhou Zhanggui said BeeDance was facing a slow growth of its Chinese business and needed to strengthen itself.
"If these issues are not addressed, it is very likely that the company will face major challenges in the future. I think Zhang's choice is wise and necessary, whether his decision is made diligently or recklessly."
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The announcement comes less than a month after Bedtance's chief financial officer, Shouzi Chew, became CEO of the short video program TikTok. The post came as Kevin Mayer, a former Disney manager, left three months after TikTok began a dispute between Washington and Beijing.
Zhang owns 20 to 30 percent of ByteDance and has more than 50% voting rights, people with information on the matter previously told Reuters. ByteDance did not comment on Zhang's post.
The founder said he started a conversation with a small group of people in March about whether it was possible to appoint Liang in his place and would work with him over the next six months to ensure a smooth transition.