Reddit CEO Yishan Wong steps down over office dispute

reddit ceo ellen yao

The move follows a turbulent few months for the social link-sharing service.

Reddit CEO Yishan Wong has resigned from the company after two and a half years in the position. He will be replaced on an interim basis by the website’s business strategist, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian announced Thursday.

The reason for Wong’s departure was not clear, although Y Combinator CEO and leading Reddit investor Sam Altman wrote on his blog that it came down to “a disagreement with the board about a new office.”

“To be clear, though, we didn’t ask or suggest that he resign,” Altman wrote. “He decided to when we didn’t approve the new office plan.”

Wong came under fire in early October after announcing that all remote employees would be required to move to San Francisco, where the company’s offices are located, by the end of 2014. It is unclear whether this decision played a role in Wong’s departure.

Ellen Pao, who served as the company second-in-command and spearheaded Reddit’s mobile app initiatives, will take over as interim CEO.

Ohanian will be returning to the company he launched with Steve Huffman in 2005, taking on the role of executive chairman. He has served on Reddit’s board since 2011, when the company left Conde Nast to become an independent company.

The summer of 2014 was a tough one for Reddit’s public image, although not for its traffic, the ultimate metric by which websites are judged. Along with 4chan, Reddit became known to the general public for its role in the so-called Celebgate nude photo leak. Reddit’s libertarian ethos led to some bad publicity as its leadership ran up against mainstream sensibilities about the leak and its gendered connotations. “The Fappening,” as it became known on the site, branded Reddit as a seedy anything-goes den of misogyny to many on the outside.

Wong came under sustained criticism for justifying the closure of the site’s Celebgate section on narrow grounds and standing behind Reddit’s hands-off approach to content. In a blog post that went up on the same night that /r/thefappening was banned, he wrote, “We care that you make your choices between right and wrong.”

“Reddit is at an amazing inflection point,” Ohanian wrote in announcing his return, “and I’m thrilled to return to help it achieve all that it can.”

Illustration by Jason Reed

Eric Geller

Eric Geller

Eric Geller is a politics reporter who focuses on cybersecurity, surveillance, encryption, and privacy. A former staff writer at the Daily Dot, Geller joined Politico in June 2016, where he's focused on policymaking at the White House, the Justice Department, the State Department, and the Commerce Department.