Sam Altman’s Departure As OpenAI’s CEO Sends Shockwaves Through The Company


In a surprising turn of events, Sam Altman will not be returning as the CEO of OpenAI, despite efforts from investors and employees to reinstate him after his sudden firing on Friday. According to an internal memo from Ilya Sutskever, a board director and co-founder of OpenAI, Altman has chosen to step away from negotiations for the time being. As the search for a permanent CEO continues, the company has appointed Emmett Shear, the co-founder of Twitch, as interim CEO.

Key Takeaway

Sam Altman will not be returning as the CEO of OpenAI. Emmett Shear, co-founder of Twitch, has been appointed as interim CEO. The board faced pressure from stakeholders, including Microsoft, to reinstate Altman and Greg Brockman. The situation highlights a clash of philosophies within OpenAI regarding the company’s mission and commercial ambitions. Multiple senior researchers resigned, and other employees threatened to quit if Altman and Brockman were not reinstated.

Board Support for Shear

The decision to appoint Shear as interim CEO was influenced by his deep concern for the existential threats posed by artificial intelligence (AI) and his experience in leading large engineering groups at Twitch, according to Bloomberg. Meanwhile, Altman’s advocate, Mira Murati, who took on the position of CEO for only two days, was replaced by Shear, indicating a shift in the board’s support.

Pressure from Stakeholders

OpenAI’s board, which had little input from major stakeholders, is now facing pressure to reconsider their actions. The removal of Altman, as well as the demotion of Greg Brockman, the president and co-founder of OpenAI, from his role as board chairman, reportedly angered Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, a significant backer and partner of OpenAI. Nadella had been mediating between the board and Altman and had pledged support for Altman regardless of the outcome. OpenAI investors, including Tiger Global, Sequoia Capital, and Thrive Capital, sought Microsoft’s help to pressure the board for Altman and Brockman’s reinstatement and even considered legal action against board members.

Resignations and Threats

In response to Altman’s firing, several senior OpenAI researchers, including director of research Jakub Pachocki and head of preparedness Aleksander Madry, left the company along with Brockman. Other employees threatened to resign if Altman and Brockman were not reinstated.

Clash of Philosophies

The underlying cause of the chaos at OpenAI appears to be a clash of philosophies. Sutskever stated in a company-wide meeting that he believed removing Altman was necessary to protect OpenAI’s mission of ensuring AI’s benefits for humanity. Reports suggest Sutskever’s dissatisfaction stemmed from announcements made during OpenAI’s first annual developer conference, DevDay, especially regarding custom GPTs that could potentially operate autonomously.

Altman’s Demands

Altman reportedly requested significant managerial changes and a new board of directors as conditions for his return. He expressed frustration that major shareholders had no say in OpenAI’s governance and considered adding Bret Taylor, the co-CEO of Salesforce, and a Microsoft-aligned member to the board.

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