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Microsoft Said to Be in Talks to Buy TikTok, as Trump Weighs Curtailing App

  • July 31, 2020

Executives at TikTok have discussed other scenarios to alleviate regulator concerns, including one in which American investors like Sequoia Capital and General Atlantic could purchase TikTok back from ByteDance, people familiar with the discussions have said, with the Chinese company retaining a minority stake in the social app.

Founded in 2014, TikTok has grown from an esoteric music video app into a global social media phenomenon. The app, which is used by more than 800 million people across the world, was acquired in 2017 by ByteDance. The app grew popular with young people by adding music tracks to user-generated video content. The videos often travel virally across Facebook and Twitter.

Since the ByteDance acquisition, the company’s Chinese offices have swollen to tens of thousands of employees. But the company has maintained a U.S. presence, with offices in New York and Los Angeles, and has continued to hire Americans aggressively.

TikTok has spent the past few months bulking up its lobbying operation in Washington in an attempt to convince lawmakers that it is an American company and to prevent the United States from forcing it to break away from its Chinese parent company.

With help from prominent investors like SoftBank and General Atlantic, it has overhauled its presence in Washington, including hiring the former head of the Internet Association, a trade group that represents companies like Google and Facebook, and staff members from prominent members from Congress.

The company has signed on more than 35 lobbyists, including David J. Urban, a former West Point classmate of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and an ally of Mr. Trump. The company’s lobbyists have highlighted TikTok’s American investors and Mr. Mayer’s hire.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Mike Isaac reported from San Francisco and Ana Swanson from Washington. David McCabe contributed reporting from Washington.

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