The CEO of TikTok’s parent firm says Trump’s ‘real objective’ is to ban TikTok, not force a sale to Microsoft

  • Zhang Yiming, the CEO of TikTok parent company ByteDance, sent a letter to employees on Tuesday as the firm fights for its future in the US.
  • He wrote that the Trump administration’s “real objective” is to get TikTok banned in the US, not to force a sale to Microsoft.
  • The letter followed remarks from President Trump on Monday about Microsoft potentially buying TikTok’s US business. 
  • Trump said there was a deadline of September 15 to buy TikTok’s US business, and that a substantial cut of any deal should go to the US treasury.
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TikTok’s owner seems convinced the Trump administration is trying to kill the app altogether, rather than force a sale to a US company.

President Donald Trump said on Monday that he had given permission to Microsoft to pursue acquisition talks with TikTok’s owner ByteDance to buy TikTok’s business in the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

Trump said he gave Microsoft a deadline of September 15 to conclude the talks, after which he threatened that TikTok would go “out of business in the United States.” He also said if a deal was struck a “substantial portion” of the cash should go to the US treasury.

Zhang Yiming, the CEO of TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, sent a letter to employees on Tuesday, Bloomberg reports.

In the letter, Zhang said the forced sale of TikTok’s US business is “unreasonable,” but the company has no choice but to comply with US law.

“But this is not their goal, or even what they want,” Zhang wrote, referring to the possible sale to Microsoft. “Their real objective is to achieve a comprehensive ban.”

Neither ByteDance nor TikTok were immediately available to comment on Bloomberg’s report when contacted by Business Insider.

This came after Zhang wrote a memo to employees on Monday, saying the company was “working overtime” to find a solution to its predicament, as reported by Bloomberg. 

“The current geopolitical and public opinion environment is becoming more and more complex. We are facing great external pressure in some markets,” he wrote.

Zhang indicated in his Monday memo that the company might push back against US demands for a sale.

“Even though we’ve repeatedly stressed that we’re a privately-run business, and despite our willingness to adopt even more technical solutions to allay their concerns, CFIUS [the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] still believes ByteDance has to sell the TikTok US operation. We do not agree with this decision,” he wrote.

Trump has repeatedly suggested he might ban TikTok.

In early July, he said in an interview that he was considering banning the app as a way to punish China for the coronavirus.

On Friday, after reports emerged that Microsoft was in talks to buy TikTok’s US business, Trump told reporters on Air Force One he was getting ready to imminently ban the app. This ban never materialized, although Trump’s remarks reportedly threw a spanner into the works of Microsoft’s negotiations with ByteDance.

On Sunday however Microsoft publicly announced it was resuming acquisition talks with TikTok for parts of its business.

TikTok has become the subject of increasing criticism from US politicians and lawmakers due to the fact it’s owned by a Chinese company, which officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claim makes it a privacy and national security risk.

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