Palmer Luckey, the outspoken co-founder of Facebook’s Oculus virtual reality business, is stepping down.
An Oculus spokesperson declined to say why Luckey, who sold his startup to Facebook in 2014 for $2 billion, is leaving the company. He had been keeping a low profile at Oculus for some time, prompting speculation about his involvement.
“His inventive spirit helped kickstart the modern VR revolution and build an industry,” the spokesperson said. “We're thankful for everything he did for Oculus and VR, and we wish him all the best.”
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At Facebook, Luckey took on a sort of ambassador role for its Oculus VR business unit as opposed to steering its corporate direction. Although Oculus hasn't disclosed sales of its Rift headsets, which debuted last spring, several technology analysts estimate that the company has sold fewer devices than rivals like HTC and Sony.
Luckey, 24, who co-founded Oculus in 2012 with current Oculus head of personal computers Brendan Iribe, was known for wearing Hawaiian shirts and for his brash comments. In 2015, he told the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph that he was personally responsible for bringing virtual reality “back from the dead” after it had languished for decades as merely a university research tool.
“Ever since I was 15 I’ve tried to act and talk as if I was a public figure, because I was sure that I would be one day and wanted to be prepared,” Luckey told The Telegraph.
Initially, Facebook endorsed Luckey’s opinionated public speeches and let him speak his mind at several of its developer conferences over the years. However, the social network began to downplay Luckey last year after a report by the Daily Beast that he had covertly funded a non-profit organization that supported President Donald Trump’s controversial election campaign by spreading unflattering images and information about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
"I am deeply sorry that my actions are negatively impacting the perception of Oculus and its partners,” Luckey said at the time. “The recent news stories about me do not accurately represent my views."
In January, Luckey became a flash point again for Facebook during a high-profile federal court case in which video game company ZeniMax alleged that Facebook had stolen key technology to build its Rift headset and related software. Although a jury eventually ruled that Facebook did not steal ZeniMax’s technology, it agreed that Luckey had violated a non-disclosure agreement, resulting in a $500 million judgment against Facebook. Of the $500 million judgement, Luckey had to pay $50 million.
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Luckey's last day at Facebook will be on Friday. UploadVR, a technology publication, first reported about his upcoming departure.