Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

ByteDance co-founder Yiming Zhang has stepped down as the company’s chairman and is leaving the board, according to a person close to the matter.

Zhang, one of China’s most successful entrepreneurs, has exited the board of TikTok’s owner, and is succeeded by Rubo Liang, ByteDance’s current CEO, the person said. The news wasn’t a complete surprise. Earlier this year, Zhang had announced that he would be leaving the CEO position, citing a desire to step away from daily management. Liang, his fellow ByteDance co-founder who at the time served as head of human resources, began to transition into the role.

But Zhang had indicated he would depart his position only “at the end of 2021,” without referencing plans to also leave the board. According to the person close to the matter, Zhang will stay on with the company in some capacity, but focus more on long-term strategy. Details are not yet clear about his exact new role, the person added. The change comes as ByteDance works to restructure its operations more broadly.

On Tuesday, the Beijing-based firm announced to employees that it would set up six business units, including TikTok, its sister platform Douyin, a line of education products, a gaming subsidiary, and two enterprise service divisions. In a memo, Liang also told employees that Chief Financial Officer Shouzi Chew would step down from his current role to dedicate his time solely to TikTok. Chew joined the company earlier this year and was appointed TikTok CEO in April. Zhang’s latest departure adds to an ongoing leadership reshuffle of Chinese tech firms in recent months.

Last week, Kuaishou, the Chinese short video-sharing app that’s known as a popular alternative to TikTok and Douyin, announced that co-founder Su Hua had stepped down as CEO, while staying on as chairman of the board. Su’s fellow co-founder, Cheng Yixiao, was appointed chief executive.