In a surprising turn of events, the future of OpenAI seems uncertain as the company grapples with internal strife. The turmoil escalated on Monday when hundreds of employees collectively signed a letter urging the current board to step down following the ousting of CEO Sam Altman. Altman’s abrupt departure, announced on Friday, ended with him swiftly joining Microsoft to lead a new artificial intelligence project.
The situation unfolded over the weekend, marked by intense boardroom discussions that resonated throughout Silicon Valley. Speculation about Altman’s potential return to Microsoft, the company he played a crucial role in building into a global tech powerhouse, had circulated widely before being confirmed on Monday.
The letter, initially reported by Wired and journalist Kara Swisher and later shared with NBC News, outlined the employees’ stance. It conveyed a unified decision to resign and possibly transition to Microsoft unless specific demands were met. The key requests included the resignation of all current board members, the appointment of two new lead independent directors (Bret Taylor and Will Hurd), and the reinstatement of Sam Altman and Greg Brockman.
The letter underscored a deep dissatisfaction with the current board, accusing them of incompetence and a lack of judgment in overseeing OpenAI. It stated, “Your actions have made it obvious that you are incapable of overseeing OpenAI,” and emphasized the employees’ commitment to a mission and a working environment that reflects competence and care.
By late Monday morning, more than 740 names were reportedly on the letter, with some expressing identical sentiments on social media platforms, proclaiming, “OpenAI is nothing without its people.” Notably, OpenAI has around 770 employees.
In a related development, Ilya Sutskever, a board member and co-founder of OpenAI, expressed regret on social media for his role in Altman’s departure. He hinted at ongoing efforts to bring Altman back, stating, “I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company.” Altman responded to this post with three heart emojis, leaving room for speculation about potential reconciliation within the company.
— Sam Altman (@sama) November 20, 2023
Emmett Shear, co-founder and former CEO of Twitch, has been confirmed as the interim CEO of OpenAI, marking a new chapter for the influential artificial intelligence company. OpenAI, established in 2015 with backing from several tech billionaires, has recently taken the lead in the AI landscape, notably with the success of the ChatGPT chatbot app.
ChatGPT gained widespread popularity around a year ago, highlighting the remarkable progress in AI technology and propelling OpenAI to the forefront as one of the most prominent tech startups globally. The company, fueled by investments from Microsoft, has been a key player in shaping the discourse on the potential and risks associated with AI.
Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO of Microsoft, announced the hiring of Sam Altman on X, over 48 hours after OpenAI’s board expressed a loss of confidence in Altman, a significant figure in the tech industry’s engagement with the promises and challenges of AI. Microsoft has been a major financial supporter of OpenAI since its first funding deal in 2019, investing billions in the company. Despite the recent changes in leadership, Nadella affirmed Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to supporting OpenAI.
In addition to Altman’s new role leading a “new advanced AI research team,” Nadella mentioned Greg Brockman, an OpenAI co-founder who departed from the board and resigned as president on Friday. The developments signal a strategic shift in leadership for OpenAI, with Microsoft continuing to play a significant role in shaping the future of AI research and innovation.
We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners. We look forward to getting to know Emmett.
We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners. We look forward to getting to know Emmett…
— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) November 20, 2023
We look forward to moving quickly to provide them with the resources needed for their success,” stated Satya Nadella, expressing Microsoft’s commitment to supporting OpenAI under its new leadership. Sam Altman, the recently ousted CEO, reshared the post with an additional note: “The mission continues.”
OpenAI’s decision to sever ties with Altman was based on a review that identified a lack of consistent candor in his communications with the board, impeding their ability to fulfill their responsibilities.
Greg Brockman, an OpenAI co-founder who resigned as president alongside Altman, expressed shock and sadness regarding the board’s decision. Despite the setback, he hinted at “greater things coming soon.”
Reports suggested that some OpenAI investors advocated for Altman’s reinstatement after Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati was appointed interim CEO. However, Emmett Shear, co-founder of Twitch, confirmed on X early Monday that he would assume the role of interim CEO for OpenAI.
Shear outlined a plan for his initial 30 days, emphasizing the importance of stability and success for OpenAI. One key initiative is the hiring of an independent investigator to examine the entire process leading to the recent events and generate a comprehensive report.
In expressing his respect for Sam Altman and the entire OpenAI team, Shear acknowledged the significance of maintaining the organization’s momentum and preventing disruption. The developments indicate a commitment to transparency and a strategic approach to addressing challenges within the company.