- Robert Galbraith/Reuters
Oculus cofounder Palmer Luckey is leaving Facebook, which acquired his virtual reality startup for $2 billion in 2014.
Luckey’s role at Oculus has been in flux since it was revealed in September that he secretly funded a Conservative group that created viral, anti-Hillary Clinton memes.
The revelation created turmoil within the Oculus group at Facebook and led to multiple female employees resigning, people familiar with the matter told Business Insider.
“Palmer will be dearly missed,” an Oculus spokesperson told BI on Thursday. “Palmer’s legacy extends far beyond Oculus. His inventive spirit helped kickstart the modern VR revolution and helped build an industry. We’re thankful for everything he did for Oculus and VR, and we wish him all the best.”
The spokesperson confirmed that this is Luckey’s last week at Oculus, but declined to say whether he was fired or left voluntarily. Luckey couldn’t be reached for comment.
A year of troubles for Oculus
- Business Insider
Luckey’s sudden departure is the latest in a string of shake-ups and controversies within Facebook’s VR subsidiary, including delayed shipments of its high-end Rift headset and touch controller, numerous software bugs, and a scaled-back retail presence.
24-year-old Luckey, who has a net worth of around $700 million, is credited with inventing the early Oculus headset that impressed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg enough to acquire Oculus for $2 billion in 2014.
Before The Daily Beast’s bombshell revelation in September 2016 that he had secretly funded memes opposing Hillary Clinton, Luckey was the public face of Oculus and regularly made media appearances on behalf of the company.
But in the last six months, Luckey has kept a low profile. He was absent from Oculus’s annual developer conference in October and not mentioned when Oculus restructured its leadership team in December. In January, Zuckerberg hired Xiaomi executive Hugo Barra to lead all of Facebook’s virtual reality efforts.
Facebook was widely heralded as the tech industry’s leader in virtual reality when it acquired Oculus three years ago, but early sales of VR headsets have since fallen short of expectations. Competitors like HTC and Sony have also made early market share inroads and put pressure on Oculus.
Luckey’s last public appearance on behalf of Oculus was in February, when he testified in a Dallas lawsuit by game maker ZeniMax that claimed Oculus was based on stolen technology.
While Oculus wasn’t found guilty of stealing trade secrets from ZeniMax, the jury did find the company to be guilty of patent infringement and ordered Facebook to pay $500 million in damages. The jury also found that Luckey violated a signed non-disclosure agreement with ZeniMax during Oculus’s early days. He was personally ordered to pay $50 million for false designation.