ByteDance hires Skadden lawyer as CFO as IPO remains in limbo

ByteDance Ltd.hiring Julie Gao of an international law firm Skadden as its new chief financial officer, filling a role that has been largely vacant throughout the social media giant’s decade-long history.

Gao, who has advised technology companies on initial public offerings and other types of financing, will work from ByteDance’s offices in Hong Kong and Singapore, CEO Liang Rubo said in an internal memo seen by Bloomberg News. A ByteDance spokesperson confirmed Gao’s hiring.

The announcement will likely reignite speculation about ByteDance’s potential IPO, which could be one of the biggest Chinese tech debuts in years. But the spokesperson reiterated on Monday that the company was not ready for a start.

Gao’s appointment marked the latest leadership change for the world’s most valuable startup. Last year, the founder of ByteDance Zhang Yuming resigned as CEO – then president – ​​handing over the roles to his college roommate Liang. Shouzi Chew, who joined the handset maker Xiaomi runs global product TikTok after a stint as chief financial officer.

Read more: ByteDance founder Zhang quits board as challenges mount

Gao headedthe China practice at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, where she worked on internet giant IPOs including Inc., Baidu inc. and Didi Global Inc. She has had a working relationship with ByteDance since 2016 and worked on its acquisitions of and game developer Moonton.

ByteDance is now streamlining its business after Beijing’s year-long crackdown on the consumer internet has chilled the expansion of new businesses.

In a tumultuous 2021, the company – one of the few tech success stories outside the orbits of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd.close most of its online tutoring operations, dissolved its venture capital investment arm, and sold a scholarship application, such as Xi JinpingThe Government of Canada is wary of the freewheeling expansion of the private sector.

ByteDance had started initial preparations for the public listing of its domestic assets in 2021, Bloomberg News reported. Since then, regulatory changes in China have forced the TikTok owner to proceed with caution, even before Didi’s IPO in New York sparked a backlash in Beijing.

Regulatory uncertainties remain one of the biggest risks for ByteDance, which reported slower 70% revenue growth for 2021, according to a Reuters report.

Beijing’s internet watchdog is now looking to to master the use of algorithms to surface content for users, and stricter privacy rules have already dampened the ability of social media platforms to target ads. Last year, regulators quietly appointed a director to the board of directors of the main national subsidiary of ByteDance, by injecting a nominal stake of 1% in the entity which manages the Douyin video sharing platform and the Toutiao news application.

Like its biggest rivals, ByteDance is increasingly looking outward to grow. With over a billion users worldwide, TikTok is stepping up its monetization efforts by running more ads and introducing live shopping. TikTok is estimated to triple its ad revenue this year to $11.6 billion, representing more than 5% of global digital ad spend with its sister app Douyin, according to the research firm. eMarketer.

Read more: TikTok CEO says he faces competitors with “bigger muscles”

To contact the reporter on this story:
Zheping Huang in Hong Kong at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Edwin Chan to [email protected]

Gilles Turner

© 2022 Bloomberg LP All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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