ByteDance founder and CEO Yiming Zhang’s decision to drop his pursuit of a sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations to Microsoft Corp in favor of a partnership with Oracle Corp was the culmination of weeks of pressure from China’s government and the Beijing-based firm’s investors, according to people familiar with the deliberations.
China’s opposition to a forced sale of TikTok, as well as concerns by major ByteDance backers such as Sequoia and General Atlantic over the financial hit of selling the popular short-video app in the United States for less than what it is worth, led Zhang to opt for the sale of only a stake to Oracle, rather than an outright divestment, the sources said.
It is a risky strategy. President Donald Trump has made it clear he wants to see an outright sale of TikTok to a U.S. technology company, amid concerns by national security officials that U.S. user data could be passed on to China’s Communist Party government. He has threatened to ban TikTok in the United States as early as Sept. 20 if ByteDance does not comply.
Microsoft executives grew frustrated over the course of the past week as ByteDance became unresponsive to the Redmond, Washington-based company’s $20 billion-plus bid for TikTok’s U.S. business, three of the sources said. The bid also allowed for future payments based on TikTok’s performance, one of the sources added.