OnlyFans CEO Tim Stokely is calling it quits and will step down five years after starting the online creator platform that’s now synonymous with sex work. That’s according to a recent Bloomberg report, which revealed former OnlyFans spokesperson Ami Gan would take over as CEO.
That move came as a surprise to many since Gan is a relatively new face at OnlyFans having only joined the company in late 2020 as Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, according to her LinkedIn page. Seeing a Marketing executive take over a tech company is also unusual. Nonetheless, Gan told Bloomberg Stokley left on his own accord and that he will continue to serve as an adviser.
In a statement sent to Gizmodo, OnlyFans confirmed Stokley had appointed Gan to the position to assume day-to-day leadership of the company.
“I look forward to continuing to work closely with our creator community to help them maximize control over, and monetise, their content,” Gan said in the statement. “By blending state of the art technology with creative capital, we are committed to being the safest social media platform in the world.”
Stokley commented on the departure as well via an Instagram post on Tuesday. “I’m passing the baton on to a colleague and a friend, who has the vision and drive to help the organization reach tremendous potential,” Stokely wrote.
The departure marks a fitting end of the year for OnlyFans which has struggled to navigate through turbulent policy changes and backlash from its users.
OnlyFans emerged as one of the big winners in 2020 as millions of users around the world flocked to their screens in record droves for entertainment and comfort. For context, a study led by UCLA researchers determined screen time among U.S. adults increased by more than 60% during Covid lockdowns. Other research from UC San Francisco meanwhile found non-school-related screen time among U.S. adolescents doubled in 2020. All this new time on devices was a boon for OnlyFans, particularly as sex workers, live musicians, and other performers were forced to pivot their business online amid lockdown restrictions.
At its apex, OnlyFans managed to bring in top mainstream celebrities like Cardi B and Bella Thorne. All that resulted in record growth for the company which finished the year with revenues up 540% compared to the year prior and close to 100 million paying users, Forbes notes.
Despite all that success, OnlyFans reportedly faced an uphill battle attracting investors uncomfortable putting their money and reputation behind a platform associated with sexual content. That dilemma likely lead to what would become a series of uncomfortable events for the platform, starting with its August decision to ban sexually explicit content. At the time, OnlyFans said the decision to distance itself from the very content that made it a known name was done, “In order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the platform,” and cited “unfair” treatment from banks as part of the problem.
The company faced swift and immediate backlash from sex workers, many of whom relied on the platform as their primary source of income. OnlyFans was forced to reverse course and suspend its ban less than a week after it was issued.
Not long after the policy shift, OnlyFans started promoting its non-nudity, safe for work app called OFTV. That app, which didn’t run afoul of nudity or sexual content restrictions by some major internet platforms, marked OnlyFan’s entry into Apple and Google’s app stores. Despite the slow early rollout, Gan, OnlyFans’ new CEO, told Bloomberg she intends to increase investment in OFTV.
And unlike Stokely, whose career prior to OnlyFans involved business related to pornography, Gan’s former roles reportedly involved working for brands like Red Bull, Quest Nutrition.
As for the future of sexual content on the platform, an OnlyFans spokesperson told Gizmodo it “remains committed to being an inclusive platform for all of its creators to share content that meets its Terms of Service,” but declined to comment further.