The daily business briefing: November 20, 2023

OpenAI co-founder Sam Altman joins Microsoft, Kyle Vogt resigns as Cruise CEO, and more

Former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman.
Sam Altman has found a new job after being booted as CEO of OpenAI.
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

1. Microsoft hires Sam Altman after OpenAI replaces him

Microsoft has hired OpenAI co-founder Sam Altman to lead its artificial intelligence operations after OpenAI's board replaced him with Emmett Shear, Twitch's ex-CEO. Altman will be joined by former OpenAI president Greg Brockman, who quit hours after Altman was fired, to lead Microsoft's new in-house AI development team. Microsoft, OpenAI's biggest backer, had led a frantic push by OpenAI investors for the company to bring back Altman. Microsoft remains committed to working with the ChatGPT start-up under Shear, the software giant's CEO, Satya Nadella, said in a post early Monday. Microsoft shares dropped 1.7% on Friday but were up as much as 2.7% in pre-market trading early Monday. Bloomberg

2. Kyle Vogt resigns as Cruise CEO

Kyle Vogt resigned Sunday as CEO of General Motors' driverless car unit Cruise after a rough month. Vogt co-founded Cruise and led it from its beginnings in a garage a decade ago through its acquisition by GM. He was named CEO in February 2022 and oversaw the expansion of the company's driverless robotaxi fleet in San Francisco and into other cities. The company faced a major setback last month after a Cruise self-driving car allegedly dragged a woman 20 feet, leading California regulators to yank the permits that allowed the company to operate in the state, which had always been its biggest market, The Wall Street Journal reported. The company didn't immediately name a new CEO but said Mo Elshenawy would serve as president and chief technology officer. TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal

3. Sugar prices soar

Sugar prices worldwide have surged to their highest level since 2011, mostly due to dry weather that has reduced harvests in India and Thailand, the world's second- and third-largest exporters, The Associated Press reported Sunday. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has predicted that global sugar production will be down by 2% in the 2023-24 season, compared to a year earlier. That amounts to the loss of 3.8 million tons, according to Fabio Palmeri, an FAO global commodities market researcher. The increase in sugar prices is contributing to rising food costs in developing nations already hurting from shortages of rice and other staples. The Associated Press

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4. Stock futures flat at start of Thanksgiving-shortened trading week

U.S. stock futures were little changed early Monday after a third straight positive week. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were flat at 6:45 a.m. ET. Nasdaq futures were up 0.1%. Market bulls expressed optimism heading into the short Thanksgiving trading week, which ends with the Black Friday kick-off to the crucial holiday shopping season. Stocks rallied after last week's consumer price index showed that inflation cooled last month by more than expected, raising hopes that the Federal Reserve's aggressive interest rates to slow the economy could bring inflation under control without tipping the economy into a recession. CNBC, The Wall Street Journal

5. 'Hunger Games' prequel leads domestic box office

"Hunger Games" prequel "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" led a busy domestic box office weekend, bringing in $44 million in North American theaters and $98 million globally in its debut. The haul fell short of the original films in the franchise, which featured Jennifer Lawrence in a role that vaulted her to stardom. The first four "Hunger Games" films each launched with at least $100 million at the domestic box office. But "Songbirds and Snakes" brought in enough to beat out three other newly released films: Universal and DreamWorks Animation's "Trolls Band Together," Sony's gory "Thanksgiving," and director Taika Waititi's sports comedy "Next Goal Wins." Variety

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