27 Apr 2022

Skadden’s rainmaker China practice head joins ByteDance as CFO

Julie Gao signs up with client as pipeline of Chinese companies selling shares in Hong Kong and New York slows

Shanghai.China-May 2021: facade of ByteDance company office building. A Chinese information technology (IT) company

Robert Way; Shutterstock

The head of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom’s China practice is leaving the firm to be CFO at ByteDance, the owner of TikTok.   

Hong Kong-based Julie Gao is joining the Chinese tech giant after more than a decade as the US firm’s top Asia capital markets lawyer, having advised on the initial share sales and other capital markets transactions of more than 100 compa­nies as well as on some of the region’s biggest M&A deals. 

Gao was also a member of Skadden’s policy committee, the firm’s highest governing body, and is particularly known for advising on the IPOs of large Chinese tech companies in New York and Hong Kong including e-commerce giant JD.com and phonemaker Xiaomi. 

She joins ByteDance as the market for Chinese companies listing in the US, worth an estimated $2trn, faces being upended by government crack downs in China and the threat of de-listing Stateside.  

ByteDance’s own plans to list offshore were put on ice indefinitely last summer after Chinese regulators told the company to focus on dealing with data security risks, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Beijing-based company’s former CFO, Shou Zi Chew, stepped aside to focus on his role as TikTok CEO last November, with Gao filling a role that has been vacant since. 

ByteDance co-founder and CEO Liang Rubo said in a letter to the company’s staff that Gao had been involved in its acquisitions and financing projects since 2016 and is “familiar with our mission, culture, teams and business.” 

She advised the company in its acquisitions of Shanghai-based gaming studio Moonton Technology last year and video-based social networking platform Musical.ly back in 2017, which later merged into TikTok, as well as helping the company through several rounds of private equity financing.   

A spokesperson for Skadden commented: “We greatly appreciate Julie’s extraordinary contributions to the firm, including her development of a world-class team to take our China practice forward, including six other partners and a deep stable of clients. We look forward to watching with pride as Julie becomes a great business executive and to continue working with ByteDance and with Julie as our client.”

Skadden led the global M&A legal advisor league table by deal value in the opening three months of the year

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