TikTok, the popular short-form video app that is facing questions about its future in the United States, said on Thursday that its chief operating officer was leaving the company and that it had hired a new head of operations and a new chief brand and communications officer.
V. Pappas, who joined TikTok as chief operating officer to run its North American business in 2018, will become a strategic adviser to the company. Adam Presser, TikTok’s chief of staff, will become its head of operations.
In an email to the company on Thursday, Mx. Pappas, 44, said, “The time is right to move on and refocus on my entrepreneurial passions.”
The company also said Zenia Mucha would oversee its sprawling communications team. Ms. Mucha, who led a 500-person global media relations team at Disney for many years, was described in a 2021 New York Times profile as “combative” and a “leadership team bedrock” who had a voice in most major corporate decisions at Disney.
“This is an important time for our company,” Shou Chew, TikTok’s chief executive, said in an announcement on Thursday, “and I am confident that we are in a strong position to match the opportunities ahead of us.”
TikTok’s leadership is changing at a pivotal time, as the app faces tremendous pressure over its ownership by the Chinese company ByteDance and questions around its data and privacy practices. Montana’s governor recently signed a bill banning TikTok in the state as of next year, and the app has been prohibited at universities, at government agencies and by the military. The Biden administration has also pushed for a potential sale of the app to satisfy national security concerns.
The intense scrutiny on TikTok has put a spotlight on its top executives, who have been asked to publicly defend the company and its practices to lawmakers. Mr. Chew appeared before Congress for a heated hearing in March after senators grilled Mx. Pappas in September. The appearance by Mx. Pappas was one of the first times a leader at TikTok had to publicly answer to lawmakers about its ties to Beijing.
Mx. Pappas has also defended the app and become a face of the company among creators amid calls to ban TikTok under two presidential administrations.
Ms. Mucha is not the first Disney leader to join TikTok. Kevin Mayer was Disney’s top streaming executive before he briefly joined TikTok as its chief executive in 2020.