He Was Once Widely Considered the Heir Apparent at Disney. Now He’s the Chief Executive of TikTok.

He Was Once Widely Considered the Heir Apparent at Disney. Now He’s the Chief Executive of TikTok.

Kevin Mayer, once widely considered Bob Iger's heir apparent at The Walt Disney company, will become chief executive of TikTok and chief operating officer of ByteDance, TikTok's Beijing-based parent company.

Rebecca Campbell, a 23-year Disney veteran who was most recently president of Disneyland Resort, will replace Mayer as chairman of direct-to-consumer and international, the company reported. Disney also announced that Josh D'Amaro, previously president of Walt Disney World Resort, will become chairman of Disney's parks, experiences and product – the role formerly held by Bob Chapek, who succeeded Iger as Disney chief executive in February.


That selection of Chapek precipitated expectations around Hollywood that Mayer – who had overseen a successful launch of Disney's streaming service, Disney Plus, and had previously helped orchestrate Disney's acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox – would likely look elsewhere for his next move.

More surprising than Mayer's exit is the appointment of Campbell to fill his shoes. The coronavirus crisis has clobbered Disney, but the company's prior decision to invest heavily in tech – epitomized by its acquisition of BAMTech, subsequently spun off into Disney Streaming Services, which powers Disney Plus – has been a relative saving grace. While Campbell oversaw the launch of Disney Plus in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the majority of her experience has been in the legacy business of Disney's ABC television unit. Campbell now helms the most future-oriented piece of the conglomerate, which despite its strong start must contend with fierce competition from tech giants like Netflix, Apple and Amazon. With Cambell and D'Amaro moving up the ranks, Chapek appears to be installing a new regime of executives whom he has worked with before; both will report directly to the new CEO.

Mayer, meanwhile, goes onto one of the hottest media companies around. His experience with M&A should serve him well as COO of ByteDance, and his Disney Plus reign should prove useful for capitalizing on the momentum of the social media app that has reportedly been downloaded over two billion times. Mayer is also inheriting a company, however, that has been under increased scrutiny, including a complaint filed last week to the U.S. FTC that it is openly flouting child privacy protections.

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Sam Blake covers media and entertainment for dot.LA. Find him on Twitter @hisamblake and email him at sam.blake@dot.LA

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