Zhang Yiming, the founder of ByteDance Ltd. that owns social-media app TikTok, stepped down from his role as chairman of the Chinese technology giant, completing a leadership handover set in motion from May, people familiar with the matter said.
Mr. Zhang relinquished his chairmanship to Liang Rubo, one of the co-founders of the company, the people said. Mr. Liang has already taken over from Mr. Zhang as chief executive officer of one of China’s most valuable internet startups in a leadership reshuffle announced in May.
Mr. Zhang’s departure, which came as Beijing increased regulatory scrutiny into big domestic technology companies, follows a spate of similar resignations by other top tech executives. Founders of online retailer Pinduoduo Inc., short-video platform Kuaishou Technology and e-commerce platform operator JD.com Inc. have all stepped back from their companies’ day-to-day business in recent months.
At Bytedance, Mr. Liang is a trusted lieutenant and former dorm roommate of Mr. Zhang, who is China’s richest technology billionaire according to a recent survey. Mr. Zhang said in May that he would resign as CEO to focus on long-term strategy for the company.
Mr. Liang, 38, inherits a company that is under fierce regulatory scrutiny both at home and overseas. Authorities in China, the U.S. and Europe are investigating ByteDance’s social-media apps and the impact on teenage users, data security and privacy.
Beijing-based ByteDance, whose investors include Sequoia China and the Carlyle Group, is the owner of TikTok, a popular app where TikTok says a billion users post or view catchy short videos each month. In China, ByteDance runs Douyin, a China version of the TikTok app with added functionalities including live streaming. It also operates other video sharing, gaming and messaging platforms.
Chinese technology news blog LatePost reported on Mr. Zhang’s resignation earlier.
Mr. Zhang’s resignation came as part of a broader realignment of ByteDance’s management and business units. In one of his first major moves as CEO, Mr. Liang said this week that he would restructure the company into six different business units. He also said Shou Zi Chew would step aside from his role as ByteDance’s chief financial officer to focus solely on his role as TikTok’s CEO. The announcements were made in an internal staff memo seen by The Wall Street Journal.
In China, ByteDance, like other large technology companies, is facing myriad regulatory pressures, from long working hours to the addictive nature of their app for teenagers.
Chinese internet companies came under fire this year from authorities and on social media for what is commonly known as a “996″ schedule—working 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for six days a week.
In August, ByteDance scrapped its policy of having its employees work one day during the weekend every other week, in addition to weekdays, people familiar with the matter said. This week, ByteDance further changed its policies to encourage employees to work shorter hours on weekdays, the people said. ByteDance’s internal rules now say employees should work on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the company also clarified its overtime policies, they said.
In September, the company limited the time users under age 14 could spend on its Douyin app, in line with the government’s efforts to limit screen time for youths.
Mr. Zhang, 38, tripled his wealth last year to 340 billion yuan, or around $53.1 billion, according to a wealth survey by the Beijing-based Hurun Research Institute in October. He overtook Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s founder Pony Ma and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s co-founder Jack Ma to become China’s richest tech leader.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text
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