What’s going on with the TikTok acquisition or investment in the US… is what a lot of TikTok staff around the world are wondering, let alone the wider tech and music industries. The next few days are going to be crucial for the future of TikTok in the US, and there are some developments to report this morning.
CNBC reported yesterday that ByteDance is planning to take TikTok public with an IPO on a US stock exchange, with its new tech partner Oracle taking a “less than 20%” stake in the new company, with US retailer Walmart also taking a stake. The report suggested that the plans are contingent on the approval of President Trump and his administration, with a decision potentially coming later today.
Axios has more detail about the “several layers of oversight” that ByteDance has agreed to, at the behest of the Trump administration. They include Oracle overseeing all TikTok’s tech operations in the US and reviewing its source code and software updates, to “ensure there are no backdoors”. It added that TikTok US will have its own board “approved by the US government” and a separate board for TikTok Global.
Meanwhile, the New York Times backed up the plans for an IPO of TikTok’s global operations, suggesting it will happen within a year or so, but is “not a formal part of the proposal being vetted by the government”. And there may be another big twist in this tale to come, for the NYT also claimed that TikTok has been talking to Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom as one of the potential candidates to be its new CEO.
We may be in the finishing straight of one of the most bizarre transactions in the tech industry’s history, then, although one of its strangest elements is firmly off the table now. Trump had suggested that the US Treasury should get a cut of any acquisition of or investment in TikTok, but this week he admitted that after talks with his lawyers: “Amazingly I find that you’re not allowed to do that.”
At least this attempt to Make America Grift Again has fallen by the wayside, but Trump will still have the final say on whether ByteDance’s proposals are approved or not, so there is still plenty of uncertainty about what happens next.