Meet TikTok's new CEO Kevin Mayer, the former Disney executive who's behind the explosive growth of Disney Plus and has the nickname 'Buzz Lightyear'

Kevin Mayer Disney Plus

  • Kevin
    Mayer
    is the new CEO of TikTok, the
    viral short-form video-sharing app announced on Monday.
  • Mayer left his role as the head of streaming at Disney, where
    he launched Disney
    Plus
    in November 2019.
  • At Disney, Mayer was instrumental in the company’s acquisitions
    of Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox.
  • The 58-year-old executive had been seen as a possible successor
    to Disney CEO Bob Iger before Iger stepped down earlier this year,
    but
    Bob Chapek was named Disney’s new CEO
    instead.
  • When he was promoted to head of streaming in 2018, Mayer’s base
    salary rose from $1.5 million to $1.8 million, per the company’s

    SEC filings.
  • Visit Business
    Insider’s homepage for more stories
    .

Kevin Mayer stepped down as Disney’s head of streaming on Monday
to become
the new CEO of short-form video app TikTok
, Brooks Barnes and
Jack Nicas reported for The New York Times.

Mayer will also be chief operating officer of ByteDance, the
Chinese company that owns TikTok.

Mayer grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, and
worked as a movie theater usher
in high school, per The Wall
Street Journal. He studied engineering at San Diego State
University and then the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of
Technology before getting his MBA from Harvard Business School.

Apart from a five-year stint, part of which was spent as CEO of
Playboy.com, the 58-year-old executive has been at Disney since
1993. He’s known for closing major deals, including Disney’s
purchases of Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, and most of 21st Century
Fox.

Most recently, Mayer oversaw the launch of Disney’s streaming
service, Disney Plus, which has
amassed 54 million subscribers
since November 2019.

Here’s what we know about the life and career of TikTok’s new
CEO.

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Zhang Yiming, the secretive, 35-year-old Chinese billionaire behind
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Kevin Mayer has been named the new CEO of TikTok, The New York
Times reported.

Mayer resigned as the head of streaming at Disney on Monday,
where he’d overseen the launch of Disney Plus. After working with
Disney on the transition, he will start at TikTok on June 1, a
TikTok spokesperson told Business Insider.

Mayer will also be chief operating officer of ByteDance, the
Chinese company that owns TikTok, while founder Yiming Zhang will
stay on as ByteDance’s CEO, per TikTok’s
statement
announcing the appointment.

In the statement, Mayer thanked the Disney team, including
former CEO Bob Iger and current CEO Bob Chapek, and said he’s
“thrilled” to join ByteDance.

“Like everyone else, I’ve been impressed watching the company
build something incredibly rare in TikTok — a creative, positive
online global community — and I’m excited to help lead the next
phase of ByteDance’s journey as the company continues to expand its
breadth of products across every region of the world,” he said.

Mayer will be based out of TikTok’s new five-story Los Angeles
office.

He will also travel frequently to its other offices in New York,
London, Mumbai, and Tokyo, a TikTok spokesperson told Business
Insider.

TikTok
also has an office in Palo Alto,
California, minutes from
Facebook’s headquarters.

Mayer had been seen as a potential successor to former Disney CEO
Bob Iger, who stepped down in February.

Industry analysts thought his role in the launch of Disney Plus

made him a prime candidate
, as Business Insider’s Travis Clark
recently reported. Before Iger stepped down, streaming was Iger’s
“No. 1 priority,” he said in 2019.

Instead, Bob Chapek, the former chairman of Disney parks,
experiences, and products,
replaced Iger as Disney’s new CEO
.

Iger has stayed on as executive chairman and “effectively returned to running the company” in recent
weeks amid the coronavirus crisis, according to The New York Times’
media columnist Ben Smith.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Monday, Mayer
said
he didn’t leave Disney
because he was passed over for CEO.

“The only reason I’m leaving is for what I think of as a
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he told the Journal.

In March, the Los Angeles Times reported that some analysts were
wondering
whether Mayer would stay with Disney
after he was passed over
for CEO.

Barclays managing director Kannan Venkateshwar wrote in a letter
to clients at the time that Mayer’s future was “[o]ne of the
concerns expressed by investors.”

After growing up in Bethesda, Maryland, Mayer studied engineering
before getting into the entertainment business.

He got his MBA from Harvard University, a Master of Science in
Electrical Engineering from San Diego State University, and a
Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Massachusetts
Institute of Technology.

Mayer would often
visit the classroom of first-year students studying Walt Disney
Co.
 at Harvard Business School to answer questions, Bloomberg
reported.

Mayer joined Disney in 1993 at age 31, according to his corporate
bio.

His first job was overseeing strategy and business development
for Disney’s interactive/internet and television businesses
worldwide, per the corporate bio, which has been taken
down.

He was later named executive vice president of the internet
group, where he oversaw Disney’s websites, including ESPN.com and
ABCNews.com.

In 2000, Mayer left Disney to become the CEO of Playboy.com, the
digital arm of Playboy Enterprises, Inc. He held the position for
less than a year.

In an interview
with The Wall Street Journal
at the time he joined Playboy in
February 2000, Mayer said he was looking forward to helping the
Playboy website attract a younger audience and expand its
international presence.

But just seven months later, Mayer left Playboy.com to become
the
CEO of Clear Channel Communications.
His time at Playboy does
not appear on his
LinkedIn page
or in his Disney corporate bio, which was removed
after he left the company this week.

“Kevin is a square-jawed, corporate executive soldier, and
Playboy had a cast of characters,” Allen Blankenship, a Los Angeles
real-estate agent who sold a men’s entertainment site to Playboy
soon after Mayer came on as CEO,
told the Journal last year.
“It was not as polished a crew as
I’m sure he was used to.”

Mayer did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request
for comment on why he left Playboy.com.

Mayer then spent a few years at LEK Consulting, a Boston-based
management consulting firm, before returning to Disney in 2005,
according to his LinkedIn.

After he returned to Disney in 2005, Mayer became known for closing
major deals.

“He’s a closer, he’s a benevolent killer,” Michael Burns, a
friend of Mayer’s and vice chairman at Lions Gate Entertainment
Corp,
told Bloomberg News
in October 2019.

As chief strategy officer, Mayer oversaw Disney’s acquisitions
of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm — home to the “Star Wars” franchise
— and most of 21st Century Fox.

In Iger’s 2019 book, “The Ride of a Lifetime,” the former CEO
described Mayer as
“a master strategist and dealmaker.”

Per the Wall Street Journal, Mayer picked up
the nickname “Buzz Lightyear” at Disney
because he “has the
self-confidence, swagger and jawline of the ‘Toy Story’ character
— as well as the astronaut figurine’s relentlessly hard-driving
style and bravado,” Erich Schwartzel and Joe Flint wrote in
November 2019.

A 2019 investigation
by The Wrap
found that some of Mayer’s former colleagues at
Disney described him as a “bully” and a “bulldozer,” claiming he
had a “belittling” management style. 

Disney and Mayer both declined to comment for the Wrap’s story
at the time, and Mayer did not immediately respond to Business
Insider’s request for comment regarding the investigation for this
story.

Mayer led the launch of Disney Plus in November 2019 and has
overseen its explosive growth, even as other Disney businesses
suffer during the pandemic.

The
streaming service reached 50 million subscribers
in five months
— a goal analysts didn’t expect it to reach until 2022, per The
New York Times.

Mayer’s replacement as
head of streaming is Rebecca Campbell
, who was most recently
president of Disneyland in California but has also run ABC stations
in the US and Disney’s direct-to-consumer businesses in Europe and
the Middle East, per Bloomberg.

Mayer told Bloomberg that Campbell is “a force of nature” and he
felt he was leaving Disney Plus in “good hands.”

Mayer left Disney at a time when most of the company is suffering
huge losses due to the pandemic.

Analysts say Disney is one of the
media giants that’s most threatened by the coronavirus crisis

because so much of its revenue comes from theme parks, films, and
advertising — all industries that have taken a beating during the
pandemic.

While Mayer’s personal net worth is unknown, his yearly base
earnings have been well over a million dollars for the past few
years.

When he was promoted to Disney’s head of streaming in 2018,
Mayer’s minimum base salary rose from $1.5 million to $1.8 million,
per the company’s
SEC filings.
Base salary is typically only a small part of
executive compensation packages, which often include performance
bonuses and stock options.

A Disney spokesperson did not immediately respond to Business
Insider’s request for comment on the amount of Mayer’s salary at
the time he left the company.

Mayer has been seen attending the exclusive July conference held
every year in Sun Valley, Idaho, by investment bank Allen & Co.

Nicknamed the
“summer camp for billionaires,”
the Sun Valley event brings
together the country’s top executives in media, technology, and
sports industries to mingle and make deals. 

Mayer married Lisa Mayer in 2003.

Per Bloomberg, Lisa Mayer was also an
“engineer-turned-MBA.”

Mayer currently resides in Los Angeles, a TikTok spokesperson
confirmed to Business Insider.

Source: FS – All – Entertainment – News
Meet TikTok's new CEO Kevin Mayer, the former Disney
executive who's behind the explosive growth of Disney Plus and has
the nickname 'Buzz Lightyear'