TikTok's billionaire Chinese founder is fighting to retain control of his company amid international tensions
ByteDanceCEO and founder Zhang Yimingis struggling to maintain control of his company as investors push him to choose one of several drastic options intended to circumvent a ban in the US, according to a new Bloomberg report.
- The wildly popular social app TikTok is owned and operated by ByteDance, prompting critics to accuse it of being a tool for the Chinese government to collect data.
President Trumprecently threatened to outright ban the app in the US, and other federal officials have echoed that sentiment. Both political parties have told staffers not to use the app on their work phones.
The billionaire founder of
Zhang Yiming is reportedly weighing several drastic options proposed by investors, ranging from an outright sale to US-based investors to transferring ByteDance's home base to the US.
Since ByteDance is a Chinese company,the company has repeatedly faced scrutiny from the Trump administration, including unfounded accusations of feeding user information to the Chinese government.
Officials have warned that the app could be outright banned in the US. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said TikTok users risked their data ending up "in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party." And both the Democratic and Republican Parties have warned staffers not to use ByteDance apps, including TikTok, on their work devices.
Given the potential of a US ban, ByteDance investors are reportedly pushing Yiming on a variety of actions intended to circumvent a potential ban. Some US investors have even reportedly floated the idea of buying a majority stake in the company in order to quell concerns of Chinese influence.
Yiming has pushed back on these ideas, according to Bloomberg, as the founder wants to retain control of the wildly popular app — TikTok has an estimated US userbase as high as 80 million.
ByteDance has taken steps to assuage American politicians: The company hired an American CEO for TikTok, and increased lobbying spending in Washington, DC, among other things.
In a statement to Bloomberg, the company echoed previous denials that it feeds user data to the Chinese government: "We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked."
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