SINGAPORE: Zhang Yiming, founder of ByteDance Ltd., will step down from his role as chief executive officer, media reported.
The owner of the popular short-video app TikTok says human resources chief Rubo Liang will become the new CEO.
Zhang Yiming is a Chinese billionaire internet entrepreneur. He founded ByteDance in 2012 and developed the news aggregator Toutiao and the video sharing platform TikTok, formerly known as Musical.ly. According to Bloomberg Billionaires Index Zhang’s personal wealth is estimated at $45.5 billion.
In September 2015, ByteDance launched its video sharing app TikTok (known as Douyin in China) with little fanfare. The product was an instant hit with millennials and became popular worldwide. ByteDance bought Musical.ly a year later for US$800 million and integrated it into TikTok.
ByteDance’s first app, Neihan Duanzi, was shut down in 2018 by the National Radio and Television Administration. In response, Zhang issued an apology stating that the app was “incommensurate with socialist core values”, that it had a “weak” implementation of Xi Jinping Thought, and promised that ByteDance would “further deepen cooperation” with the ruling Chinese Communist Party to better promote its policies.
As of late 2018, with more than one billion monthly users across its mobile apps, ByteDance is valued at US$75 billion, surpassing Uber to become the most valuable startup in the world. Zhang’s personal wealth is estimated at $22.6 billion, making him the 9th richest person in China.
In September 2020, the United States Department of Justice referred to Zhang as a “mouthpiece” of the Chinese Communist Party in a legal filing.
In May 2021, he said that he will step down as CEO and will be succeeded by Rubo Liang.