FirstFT: Pressure grows to reinstate Sam Altman as OpenAI chief

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Good morning.

Sam Altman stepped back into OpenAI’s offices yesterday as a groundswell of support from executives, staff and investors raised pressure on board members to reinstate the chief executive they sacked three days ago.

Just 48 hours after a firing that shocked Silicon Valley, Altman posted a picture of himself wearing an OpenAI guest pass on X, along with: “first and last time i ever wear one of these.”

The reason for his return was not immediately clear, but venture backers and executives at Microsoft — which has committed more than $10bn to the company behind ChatGPT — were exploring options including clearing out the board and reinstating Altman, according to four people briefed on the discussions.

In a memo circulated to staff at the generative artificial intelligence company on Saturday night, chief strategy officer Jason Kwon said he was “optimistic” that Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman — who quit on Friday — would return, according to a person with direct knowledge of its contents. Read the latest on the turmoil inside OpenAI.

Here’s what else I’m keeping tabs on today:

  • Economic data: The Conference Board publishes its leading economic index for the US and Germany releases its producer price index of industrial products for October.

  • CBI conference: Senior figures from business and government speak at the CBI’s General Election Countdown in London.

  • Results: Agilent Technologies, Compass Group and Zoom report.

Five more top stories

1. The EU is set to approve the continued payment of development aid to the Palestinian territories after an internal European Commission audit found that its funding was not inadvertently financing terror groups. This would mean the first payment of non-humanitarian aid to Palestinian recipients since the Israel-Hamas war began last month can take place as planned by the end of November.

2. UK chancellor Jeremy Hunt is set to announce the biggest overhaul to individual savings accounts in almost a decade, as he looks to boost the use of tax-free savings vehicles to provide capital for economic growth. In his Autumn Statement on Wednesday, Hunt will outline an Isa reform road map that includes plans to alter rules around fractional shares and long-term asset funds.

3. Linda Yaccarino is resisting growing pressure from advertisers to step down as chief executive of X. Big brands such as IBM, Apple, Walt Disney, Comcast and Warner Bros have suspended their advertising on the platform over concerns about its owner Elon Musk and antisemitic content. Executives and friends of Yaccarino have privately urged her to resign to save her reputation, but she has refused, telling them that she believes in X’s mission.

4. Radical libertarian Javier Milei has secured a decisive victory in Argentina’s presidential election, winning 55.8 per cent of the vote, against 44.2 per cent for economy minister Sergio Massa of the centre-left Peronist government. Milei’s victory pulls the country’s politics far to the right amid its worst economic crisis in two decades.

5. Airlines are struggling to convince investors to back the travel recovery despite reporting booming profits and splurging tens of billions of dollars on new planes. The MSCI index tracking global airlines is trading about 40 per cent below pre-pandemic levels and has fallen more than 20 per cent since the start of July, as investors continue to fret about high fuel prices, an economic downturn and concerns over consumer spending.

Deep Dive

Dominique Senequier
Dominique Senequier is the only executive remaining of the founding team © FT montage/Getty/Dreamstime

Seventy-year-old Dominique Senequier built Ardian into a $156bn European private equity powerhouse. But a string of abrupt departures by top executives, including former chief operating officer Jérémie Delecourt, has brought into focus a succession problem. “If she doesn’t give the new management team sufficient power in the coming months and years . . . it will be a disaster for the company,” said one longtime executive.

We’re also reading . . . 

Graphic of the day

Map and chart showing percentage of buildings damaged across the 5 districts of Gaza. More than 50% of buildings in the two northern districts are likely to have been damaged since October 7

Israel’s military has damaged more than half of the buildings and large swaths of neighbourhoods of northern Gaza during its 42-day offensive, according to analysis of satellite data. The data, estimated using radar signals from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellite, shows Israel’s damage to Gaza’s infrastructure has largely followed the path of its ground invasion, clustering around targets it has publicly identified as essential to its military goals.

Take a break from the news

The Australian team celebrates victory in the Cricket World Cup
The Australian team celebrates victory in the Cricket World Cup. Batsman Travis Head gave the performance of the night, scoring 137 at the Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad © Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images

Coming into 2023 men’s Cricket World Cup final, Australia was not highly favoured to win. But Pat Cummins and his squad had other plans, comfortably defeating host nation India to win its sixth title and spoiling the party for the world’s biggest cricketing country.

Additional reporting by Benjamin Wilhelm

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