Sam Altman speaks in a discussion during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO summit in San Francisco on Nov. 16, 2023. Photo by Eric Risberg, AP Photo

Silicon Valley tech companies have been rocked with some boardroom drama these past few days, not long after top tech executives descended upon San Francisco during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit last week.

Sam Altman, who participated in a panel discussion at APEC alongside execs from Google and Meta, was ousted as OpenAI CEO by the leading artificial intelligence company’s board of directors, per a shocking Friday afternoon announcement.

  • The statement: “Mr. Altman’s departure follows a deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities. The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.”

Because the San Francisco-based startup — which is widely known for its revolutionary ChatGPT chatbot — wasn’t particularly “candid” itself in its announcement, speculation abounded in the tech industry over the true reason of Altman’s unceremonious departure and his future. 

While there was some talk over the weekend to reinstate the co-founder as CEO, and employees signed a letter urging the board to resign, longtime OpenAI partner and investor Microsoft announced Sunday that it had secured Altman to lead an AI research team. In one of his responses to the news, Altman tweeted that “the mission continues.”

Even a bigger shock: AI announced late Tuesday that Altman will return as CEO, under a new board.

But Altman wasn’t the only tech leader looking for a new job. The CEO of Cruise, a San Francisco autonomous car company owned by General Motors, resigned Sunday, about a month after two California state agencies decided to suspend its services following an accident involving a Cruise robotaxi hitting a pedestrian in San Francisco.

In a thread on X (formerly Twitter), ex-CEO Kyle Vogt said he launched the startup in his garage. Over the course of 10 years, the company “has given over 250,000 driverless rides across several cities, with each ride inspiring people with a small taste of the future.” Vogt made no mention of Cruise’s suspension, the company’s subsequent voluntary recall of 950 of its vehicles or the federal investigation into the company.

And other tech execs could be in the hot seat before Congress. In what’s considered a “rare show of force,” the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the CEOs of Discord, Snap and X to appear at a Dec. 6 hearing about online safety and online child exploitation, reports The Washington Post

Lawmakers have argued that the messaging and social media companies have been so far unwilling to help with their bipartisan investigation. But representatives from Snap and X said they have been “working in good faith” with the committee or “already agreed to testify.” 

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, as well as the CEO of TikTok are also expected to appear at the hearing.

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90 minutes of DeSantis vs. Newsom

From left, Florida Gov. Ron Desantis and Gov. Gavin Newsom. Photos by Scott Morgan, Reuters and Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters
Florida Gov. Ron Desantis, left, and Gov. Gavin Newsom. Photos by Scott Morgan, Reuters and Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

Fox News announced the final details Monday for the much-debated face-off next week between Gov. Gavin Newsom of California and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.

It’ll be live from Alpharetta, Ga., outside Atlanta on Nov. 30. It’ll start at 6 p.m. Pacific time and be 90 minutes long. It’ll be moderated by Sean Hannity, without a studio audience. 

Hannity will then host a 30-minute post-debate analysis of what Fox is promoting as “DeSantis vs. Newsom: The Great Red vs. Blue State Debate.”

The two governors aren’t waiting for the debate to continue trolling each other. 

In a fundraising video last week for his presidential campaign, DeSantis called California “the petri dish for American leftism” and said it would “cause this country to collapse,” while he said Florida is the “model for revival, a model based on freedom.”

Newsom hit back with a TV ad that started airing in Florida on Sunday accusing DeSantis of making criminals of women seeking an abortion by signing a ban after six weeks of pregnancy. The ad, narrated by Newsom, shows a “Wanted” poster with images of women and physicians and says “by order” of DeSantis they could be arrested and put in prison for five years: “That’s not freedom. That’s Ron DeSantis’s Florida.”

Tribes say no dice on sports betting

Online sports betting. Image via iStock
Image via iStock

Native American tribes officially put their foot down on proposed sports betting measures aimed for the November 2024 ballot.

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association announced that it opposes a pair of ballot proposals to legalize online sports gambling a day after its leaders met with “initiative proponents.” Though specific names were not given, the two entrepreneurs spearheading the campaign are a gambling industry veteran, Kasey Thompson, and a blockchain executive, Reeve Collins. 

The two did not consult with the tribes before filing the proposed measures, causing initial confusion and concern among the tribal and gaming communities. But after last week’s meeting, tribal leaders said they will be the ones who will “decide what is best for our people,” and that their opposition to the proposals is “irrevocable.”

  • James Siva, California Nations Indian Gaming Association chairperson, in a statement: “The entire effort surrounding these initiatives was handled abhorrently by the initiative sponsors. It is hard not to be offended when listening to these individuals speak…. We call on (the sponsors) to drop the initiatives as they have pledged to do if tribes were to oppose them.”

Not only did Thompson and Collins fail to get buy-in from tribal leaders, but they put forward these measures less than a year after voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 26 and Proposition 27, which would have made both in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and online sports betting legal.

According to The Mercury News, Thompson said he will not move forward without backing from the majority of Native American tribes, but argued that only 18 out of the 52 tribes voted against the initiatives, with the rest abstaining.

2026 governor candidates audition

State Sen. President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat, on the Senate floor during session at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Aug. 24, 2023. Photo by Rahul Lal for CalMatters
State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins on the Senate floor at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Aug. 24, 2023. Photo by Rahul Lal for CalMatters

Looking even beyond November 2024, announced and potential candidates for governor started making their pitches to Democratic Party activists at the convention over the weekend.

As the earliest big-name candidate to announce her 2026 gubernatorial ambitions in April, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis held a reception Friday evening welcoming supporters and giving a few remarks in honor of late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, reports The Sacramento Bee

Also looking more likely to be vying to be California’s first female governor is Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, who would be the state’s first openly LGBTQ+ governor as well. The Democrat from San Diego told AP News last week that she was looking at the “possibility” of running since she’s termed out after next year (she will be succeeded by Sen. Mike McGuire of Santa Rosa). 

In a campaign-esque video, which featured comments from Democratic state officials and allies, Atkins referred to her experience as the state Senate leader, but said that her “mission doesn’t change even when the job title does.” At the convention, Atkins focused mostly on the 2024 election, saying that is the year “our democracy is at stake.”

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who announced his candidacy in September, spoke to convention goers on Saturday and had a campaign booth. With a campaign slogan of “Ban Fascism, Not Books!” the state school chief has been touting his record opposing the policies of parent and religious groups regarding LGBTQ+ students. In the summer, Thurmond was escorted out of a Chino Valley Unified School District board meeting when he criticized a policy to require school staff to out transgender students to their parents.

CalMatters Commentary

CalMatters columnist Jim Newton: Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass’ handling of the Interstate 10 shutdown displayed her strengths, but she faces a bigger challenge on homelessness.

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters is away.

Other things worth your time:

Some stories may require a subscription to read.

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Why Newsom, lawmakers want CA Supreme Court to remove 2024 ballot measure // CapRadio

CA Lottery director resigns after leading agency values shift // The Sacramento Bee

Assemblymember Luz Rivas will run for Rep. Tony Cárdenas seat // Los Angeles Times

Elon Musk’s X sues media watchdog over report on pro-Nazi content // CNN Business

Teacher uses jazz to explore California history, race and culture // EdSource

CA’s multibillion dollar preschool expansion faces unknowns // The Sacramento Bee

Sierra foothills residents race to adapt to wildfires and climate change // KQED

There’s a big new sea wall in the Bay Area, is this the future? // San Francisco Chronicle

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Lynn La is the WhatMatters newsletter writer. Prior to joining CalMatters, she developed thought leadership at an edtech company and was a senior editor at CNET. She also covered public health at The Sacramento...