The fight to keep TikTok alive in the U.S. has been a confusing geopolitical battle, and it got more confusing on Wednesday morning after Maria Bartiromo, a news anchor with Fox Business, stated that Oracle chief Larry Ellison told her Masayoshi Son of Softbank would be on the board of TikTok.
Ellison, who has appeared on Mornings with Maria before and was scheduled to appear on Wednesday but backed out, apparently told Baritromo earlier this week that four out of the five TikTok board seats will be filled by Americans, and “the fifth one is likely going to be Japanese, Masa Son,” said Baritromo.
That is not true, a source close to the negotiations tells Forbes. “Even the Oracle folks have no idea why Larry Ellison would have said that or why Maria would say that, but no, Masayoshi Son will not be on the board,” the source says.
TikTok and Oracle did not respond to requests for comment. A representative for SoftBank declined to comment.
The lapse in communication between ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of TikTok, and Oracle, has become a theme in the unprecedented negotiations to make the hugely popular social app a US-based company. These efforts were sparked by President Donald Trump, who threatened to ban the social media app in August over security concerns that the Chinese government would use TikTok to spy on American citizens. He gave ByteDance until September 15 to give up control of its U.S. operations.
In the weeks following Trump’s order, various companies were thrown out as buyers, with Oracle and Microsoft coming out as the top contenders. Two days before the deadline, Microsoft released a statement that ByteDance had declined its offer to buy the company’s U.S. operations.
Though Oracle won over Microsoft, critics soon pointed out that Oracle’s plan for a “partnership” with TikTok would not be a full sale, thus not meeting President Trump’s requirements for the deal. On September 19, Oracle and Walmart announced it would be acquiring 20% of TikTok Global, a new parent company of TikTok which would be responsible for all of the app’s services in the U.S., and well as most of the world. As part of the deal, Oracle would become TikTok’s cloud provider. The White House gave its blessing on the deal.
Two days after that announcement, however, ByteDance and Oracle came out with contradictory statements about who would be in charge of TikTok Global. ByteDance said TikToK Global would be a “100 percent” fully owned subsidiary, while Ken Gleuck, a executive vice president at Oracle, said ByteDance would have no ownership in TikTok Global. It remains unclear who will ultimately own TikTok—and, apparently, who will serve on its board.
“There has just been a lot of silliness around all this,” the source said to Forbes.