TikTok’s #2 Exec Bails as Company Fights for Its Life

TikTok’s #2 Exec Bails as Company Fights for Its Life

TikTok Chief Operating Officer V. Pappas, the long-time face of the company’s US operations, is calling it quits. The top executive revealed their resignation in an email to staff Thursday saying the “time is right to move on and refocus.” Their departure comes at a time of extreme uncertainty at the company, with lawmakers at the state and federal level foaming at the mouth to ban the app on national security grounds.

“After nearly 5 years at TikTok I am stepping down as COO,” they tweeted. “To our amazing community of creators, employees, & people who have made TikTok ‘the last sunny spot on the internet’, it has been an absolute privilege to serve you all & to be a part of this once in a lifetime journey.”

Pappas, according to the email sent to TikTok employees, will maintain an advisory role at TikTok. The former COO’s resignation email was first reported by The Information.

“Given all the successes reached at TikTok, I finally feel the time is right to move on and refocus on my entrepreneurial passions,” Pappas wrote. “Few had imagined what the last five years would look like and with all the incredible innovation happening now with generative AI, robotics, renewable energy, genomics, blockchain and the IoT, clearly the future will again look much different.”

In addition to Pappas’ departure, TikTok is bumping Chief of Staff Adam Presser up to head of operations, according to a separate email from CEO Shou Chew, according to an email seen by Gizmodo. Former Disney executive Zenia Mucha will join as TikTok’s new Chief Brand and Communications Officer.

“As we embark on this next chapter, we are grateful to Zenia and Adam for their support and enthusiasm, and look forward to working closely with them as we evolve and Grow Together,” Chew wrote. “I’d also like to thank V again for their contributions and continued commitment to the company. This is an important time for our company, and I am confident that we are in a strong position to match the opportunities ahead of us.”

Pappas had acted as the primary public face of TikTok’s US operation since assuming the COO role in May 2021. Much of Pappas’s time in that role has involved efforts to publicly distance the US arm of the company from its Chinese ownership and sell lawmakers on the company’s Project Texas partnership with Oracle to sequester US users’ data. A series of whistleblower accusations and damning reports describing Chinese employees accessing US user data, however, has undoubtedly hurt the company’s ability to persuade already sceptical lawmakers.

At the same time, Chew, the CEO, has emerged in recent months from relative obscurity to take a front-and-centre role in TikTok’s US charm offensive. Chew went to Congress in March and underwent a nearly five hour grilling from lawmakers. The CEO also sat down for a far less combative softball TED interview in April where he outlined his optimistic vision for the company.

“​​I want to take this opportunity to thank V for their many contributions over the years,” Chew said in his email to staff. “Throughout their time at TikTok, they have been instrumental in growing the business, advocating for the company, elevating our product offerings and marketing campaigns, and fostering a positive community of creators and users.”

Pappas departs during a tense period of regulatory uncertainty for TikTok. Members of Congress have introduced around half a dozen proposals that would, in one way or another, ban TikTok from private US devices on national security grounds. States are acting even faster. Last month, Montana became the first state to officially ban downloads of the app. That ban, which is slated to take effect in January 2024, is already undergoing major legal challenges.

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