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Sam Altman appears at OpenAI offices as pressure grows to reinstate him as chief


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

Just 48 hours after a firing that shocked Silicon Valley, Altman tweeted a picture of himself wearing an OpenAI guest pass, saying it was the “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.

Two of those people said Altman could be reinstated as CEO as soon as Sunday but one cautioned that the board remained an obstacle.

“People in the negotiation say it should wrap today. The sticking point is that he wants the board to step down. This is a board that fired him [only on Friday],” this person said: “The leverage that Sam and [co-founder] Greg [Brockman] have is support from employees and investors . . . but the board is not beholden to them.” Follow the upheaval at OpenAI here.

An opening to rivals: Leadership in generative AI, the tech industry’s most important innovation in years, has suddenly been thrown into question.

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

China monetary policy: The People’s Bank of China is expected to keep its loan prime rate unchanged. (Reuters)

Argentina election: Voters went to the polls on Sunday in a run-off between the country’s embattled economy minister and a radical libertarian.

South Korea-UK relations: South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol begins a four-day state visit to Britain.

Five more top stories

1. The US and Qatar signalled yesterday that they were edging closer to a deal to release a significant number of civilian hostages held by Hamas in the besieged Gaza Strip. Any breakthrough is expected to lead to a multi-day pause in Israel’s offensive on Gaza and an increase of urgently needed aid into the coastal enclave. Here are the details on the talks.

More news: The Israeli army is advancing through Gaza City after taking full control of the enclave’s largest hospital as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to resist international pressure for a ceasefire.

Oil market: The White House’s chief energy adviser told the FT that he is confident that Arab oil producers will not weaponise energy.

2. The global queue to set up a family office in Singapore has stretched to as long as 18 months, as the vehicles face additional scrutiny after the city-state’s biggest money laundering probe. Family offices boomed during the pandemic and have come to symbolise Singapore’s ambitions as an investment destination. The longer wait times reflect growing regulatory concern that the vehicles could be used by criminal enterprises.

3. A deal by Taiwan’s two leading opposition candidates to join forces to unseat the ruling Democratic Progressive party has run aground after just three days with both camps saying they should head the ticket. If the co-operation attempt fails the most likely outcome would be victory for the DPP’s Lai Ching-te, raising the possibility of greater Chinese aggression against Taiwan.

4. A Bulgarian arms magnate who survived two Russian assassination attempts has raised the alarm about a sabotage campaign that he says Moscow has been waging for years as it tries to disrupt crucial weapons supplies to Ukraine. Read what weapons maker Emilian Gebrev told the FT.

5. Scientists say the cyclical El Niño effect which helped put the world on track for a heat record this year will persist into 2024. El Niño is expected to cause floods and heatwaves into 2024, a year that could be “even warmer than 2023”, said World Meteorological Organization secretary-general Petteri Taalas.

The Big Read

Montage portraying rising violence in Sweden
© FT montage/Getty Images

Sweden has suffered an extraordinary spate of gang violence in recent months. At its worst in September and October, barely a day went by without a shooting, bombing or hand grenade attack — sometimes several. The rising violence in the wealthy Nordic country famed for its progressive values is leading to uncomfortable conversations about what is driving the gang crisis.

We’re also reading . . . 

Chart of the day

Column chart of EU’s goods trade balance with China (€bn) showing EU’s trade deficit with China widened to almost €400bn last year

The EU has learnt its lesson on China, according to former European trade commissioner Karel De Gucht. The bloc is ramping up pressure on Beijing over its ballooning bilateral trade deficit, and, De Gucht told the FT, its policy must be influenced by the outcome of a previous bout of trade tensions.

Take a break from the news

Cartoon illustrating wine etiquette
© Debora Szpilman

Don’t drink red bordeaux with turkey and never put wine in paper cups — FT wine critic Jancis Robinson answers readers’ questions for the festive season.

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