How Kevin Mayer, the ex-Disney executive who left to be TikTok's CEO for only 3 months, has started to mount a comeback as an investor


kevin mayer Former Disney executive and TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer.

  • Kevin Mayer resigned from his role as TikTok CEO in August just three months after taking on the position, a move seemingly borne from uncertainty around the app’s ban and acquisition.
  • Less than two months after leaving TikTok, Mayer has made his public debut by pursuing at least two opportunities in investing. He was recently listed as a strategic adviser for a new SPAC focused on media and technology.
  • Additionally, a new virtual-concert platform called Moment House announced Tuesday that it had raised $1.5 million in seed funding from investors including Mayer, actor Jared Leto, and music executive Scooter Braun.
  • At the start of 2020, Mayer was riding high as head of Disney’s successful streaming service and as the favorite to succeed the company’s CEO. Now, Mayer is again looking for his next big thing — and mounting his comeback.
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Less than two months after his sudden departure from TikTok, Kevin Mayer has quietly reemerged as a rookie investor in the music and technology space.

Mayer was quietly revealed Tuesday as a participant in a $1.5 million seed funding round for Moment House, a new platform designed for artists to host ticketed concerts and live events — but virtually. Mayer was just one of the investors listed alongside celebrity figures like “Suicide Squad” actor Jared Leto, music producer Scooter Braun, and music artist Kygo.

It’s been a whirlwind 2020 for Mayer, who kicked off the year as a high-powered, 15-year-tenured executive at Disney widely seen as next in line to succeed outgoing CEO Bob Iger. His decision to leave his cushy role for a chance as TikTok’s first CEO seemed promising, but he lasted less than three months in the job as the company faced a tumultuous summer fueled by political tensions and billion-dollar deal negotiations. Now, Mayer is following the path of other Hollywood moguls looking to put their own money behind the entertainment industry’s next big thing.

On its face, Mayer’s debut as an investor could be surprising. Mayer is perhaps most well-known for heading up the successful launch of the Disney Plus streaming service, which surpassed analyst expectations and generated more than 50 million paying subscribers by the time it turned six months old.

But prior to becoming head of Disney’s direct-to-consumer offerings in 2018, Mayer devoted more than a decade to leading the company’s corporate strategy and business development. He was in charge of Disney’s deal-making strategy when it acquired multichannel YouTube network Maker Studios for $500 million in 2014. He’s credited with orchestrating Disney’s massive purchases of Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Marvel, as well as the $71-billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox. Even before Disney, Mayer was a partner at a global consulting firm overseeing its media and entertainment projects.

In the wake of Disney and TikTok, Mayer is sticking with the industry he knows best. Moment House is one of the many platforms who have launched or pivoted to serve the need for virtual replacements to in-person live events in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Mayer’s involvement with Moment House stands as a seed investor among many high-profile ones helping the new platform get off the ground.

Through a spokesperson, Moment House CEO Arjun Mehta told Business Insider that Mayer “believes in the vision of Moment House and believes the team can execute this digital experience.” His monetary support behind the startup is “great validation from someone that deeply understands media,” the spokesperson said.

Mayer was unable to be reached for comment.

Mayer’s name has also been linked to other investment projects beyond Moment House in the less than two months since he resigned from his unusually public role at TikTok. Recent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission listed Mayer as a strategic adviser for a new company trying to raise money in the media and entertainment space. Forest Road Acquisition is a newly formed SPAC — a kind of blank-check, shell corporation that raises money with the intention to acquire a company and be able to take it toward an IPO. Forest Road Acquisition includes involvement from former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, as well as other prominent former Disney executives, according to the filing.

Last month, the New York Times reported Mayer was in “advanced talks” to join RedBird Capital, an investment firm focused on sports and entertainment industries managing around $4 billion in capital. It’s not clear where those discussions stand, and RedBird Capital did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

The role of investor in a common path for startup founders and high-powered executives, looking to get in on the ground-floor of the next Facebook or PayPal before anyone else. It seems Mayer had a similar perspective in mind when he decided to become TikTok’s CEO in May. Before TikTok, Mayer was the favorite to take over Disney when its longtime CEO Bob Iger stepped down in February. Mayer was passed over for the job, which went to Bob Chapek, and became TikTok’s CEO just three months later, seeming to indicate he was waiting for an opportunity to be the No. 1 at a company.

However, it took just three months for Mayer to realize that even with the new role, that wasn’t going to happen. The back-and-forth battle over TikTok’s uncertain future in the US caused friction, and the decision-making over the company’s potential acquisition was delineated to executives as TikTok’s corporate owner, ByteDance. As ByteDance executives held negotiations in the multi-billion bidding war, Mayer was reportedly left out of the decision-making process altogether.

“As the political environment has sharply changed, I have done significant reflection on what the corporate structural changes will require, and what it means for the global role I signed up for,” Mayer wrote in a company-wide email to employees.”I understand that the role that I signed up for — including running TikTok globally — will look very different as a result of the US Administration’s action to push for a sell off of the US business.”

Now less than two months since Mayer’s resignation, TikTok still remains in a state of purgatory. A temporary injunction has blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to start implementing a ban on TikTok, and the app restrictions set for November 12 are currently facing legal challenges. Meanwhile, progress seems to have slowed in discussions regarding the sale of TikTok’s US assets, an attempt to appease the Trump administration’s concerns about ties of China and national-security concerns.

A Global Asset Management Seoul Korea Magazine

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