Kevin Mayer (pictured) is leaving Disney to become the CEO of TikTok (and COO of parentco ByteDance) effective June 1.
Mayer will report directly to ByteDance’s founder and CEO Yiming Zhang. He is responsible for driving the global development of ByteDance itself, as well as overseeing corporate development, sales, marketing, public affairs, security, moderation and legal. He is also in charge of music, gaming, social networking service Helo, and emerging businesses for ByteDance. As TikTok’s CEO, he will be leading the rapidly growing platform and all of its aspects.
For the past two years, Mayer served as chairman of Disney’s direct-to-consumer and international unit, which includes oversight of Disney+. Mayer previously served as the chief strategy officer for Disney, and many saw him as a likely successor to Bob Iger when the CEO decided to step down. However, in a surprise announcement, when Iger stepped down earlier this year it was Bob Chapek who stepped into the chief role. Chapek previously replaced Mayer as head of consumer products and parks unit when the former took over streaming. (Since the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns began, Disney has been having a time of considerable upheaval and Iger has reportedly stepped back in to many of his CEO duties.)
Filling Mayer’s role at Disney is Rebecca Campbell, former president of Disneyland resort. She will now oversee Disney’s streaming businesses globally, including Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu and Hotstar.
Disney, meanwhile, has many of its senior execs on the park side to fill the ensuing gaps. Josh D’Amaro has been named the chairman of Disney parks, experiences and products (replacing Chapek). Jeff Vahle was named the president of Walt Disney World Resort; Ken Potrock will succeed Campbell as the president of the Disneyland Resort; Kareem Daniel shifts into the position of president of consumer products, games and publishing; and Thomas Mazloum will serve as president of Disney Signature Experiences.
It’s not been a great time for Disney’s parks division, as most of its locations remain closed due to COVID-19. The Shanghai park reopened but at 30% capacity, and analysts estimate Disney is losing US$1 billion for every month the parks remain closed.
TikTok, meanwhile, has been thriving during the lockdowns. The app recently reached two billion downloads worldwide, with many celebrities also joining the platform, including Amy Schumer, Jack Black and Will Smith.
The platform has had issues in the past trying to break into the US market because ByteDance is a Chinese company and many States-side were wary of its offerings. There have long been rumors that it was looking for a US-based CEO to quell those concerns.
Alex Zhu, the current president of TikTok, will transition into the position of VP of product and strategy for ByteDance, focusing on overseeing strategy and product design. Kelly Zhang and Lidong Zhang will continue to lead the China business as CEO and Chairman of ByteDance, respectively.