Last year, just a few months into the pandemic, Kevin Mayer, then Chairman of Direct-to-Consumer & International at Disney announced he was leaving the company. He had a CEO role lined up with a TikTok, but that didn’t pan out as planned. This week, CNBC interviewed Mayer about his Disney exit and how things are going now.    

via CNBC

via CNBC

What’s Happening:

  • In May 2020, Disney Executive Kevin Mayer announced he was leaving the company for a CEO position with TikTok and a Chief Operating Officer role at their Beijing-based parent company, ByteDance.
  • The news came just a few months after Bob Iger stepped down as CEO and Bob Chapek was selected to take his place.
  • As Chairman of Direct-to-Consumer & International (DTCI), Mayer was instrumental in launching Disney’s streaming services ESPN+ and Disney+ in 2019. He also oversaw the integration of Hulu and in India, Hotstar.
  • Mayer walked away from his position, and then in summer 2020—just 2 months after he took the CEO job at TikTok—The Trump administration raised concerns about TikTok's connections to China, finding it to be a potential national security threat.
  • An executive order demanded that ByteDance sell TikTok or the app would be banned in the U.S. If that had happened, Mayer’s newly found role would be no more. At best he’d run a division at whichever company would purchase TikTok, and there would be no U.S.-based operations.
  • In August, Mayer decided to step down from ByteDance and TikTok.
  • As of now, he’s working for investment firm Access Industries which is owned by Len Blavatnik. He currently serves as an advisor and also Chairman of the sports streaming service, DAZN.
  • CNBC’s Alex Sherman recently sat down with the former Disney Executive to discuss his career and the interesting trajectory it's taken in the past 12 months.
  • Below are some quotes from the interview. Please visit CNBC for Sherman’s full Q&A with Mayer.

What He’s Saying:

  • Mayer on if he knew about Iger’s departure ahead of time: “I didn’t know that was coming at all. Look, my interpretation of it is that Bob Iger wanted to focus more on the creative side of things. He has a lot of affinity for that. And it just sort of escalated quickly. And he and the board of directors needed to make a call about who would be the next CEO.”
  • Mayer on whether he thought he’d be CEO of Disney: “I was hoping I would be. I’m not sure hope and expectations are the same. It’s a nice job, CEO of Disney.”
  • Mayer on why he didn’t get the top job at Disney: “What I’ve heard is I needed a little bit more seasoning. I’d only been in that role for a couple of years, in an operating role. Before that I was chief strategy officer and a staff role, even though I had a lot of people working for me around the world and all that stuff.”
  • Mayer’s thoughts on why Chapek was selected: “…given the timing of it and in the immediacy of it, I think that people felt that he was the safer pair of hands at the moment.”
  • Mayer on deciding to leave TikTok/ByteDance: “I didn’t want to go run a division of Microsoft or Oracle [potential purchasers of TikTok]. And if there was going to be a divestiture…there would be no U.S. operations. It was just too awkward and bizarre.”
  • Mayer on where he’s at currently: “You know, there’s always a silver lining to everything. It has been a strange year for me. Would I change anything? Maybe. But I’m a firm believer that you just look forward.”