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OpenAI has faced a growing revolt among employees and investors demanding the resignation of three directors after a failed boardroom coup ousted CEO Sam Altman from the world’s leading artificial intelligence company.
Directors “undermined our mission and our company” in the way they fired Altman and his co-founder Greg Brockman on Friday, employees said in a letter to the board. About 700 of OpenAI’s 770 employees had signed the letter by Monday afternoon, according to a post by employees on the social media site X. OpenAI did not respond to confirm the number.
The disruption represents a stunning reversal for the group that pushed generative AI into the mainstream by launching its ChatGPT chatbot nearly a year ago. Until last week, OpenAI was seen as the world leader in developing and commercializing the technology, which has attracted billions of dollars in investment and upended companies around the world. Now its future is in question.
After failed talks to reinstate Altman on Sunday, in which the board demanded his resignation as the price for his return, OpenAI’s board instead turned to Emmett Shear, co-founder of the video streaming service Twitch, as interim CEO. Microsoft, the software company that is the largest investor in OpenAI, announced that it has appointed Altman and Brockman to head a new artificial intelligence unit.
Altman indicated on Monday that he expects OpenAI to continue, and was working with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to secure the startup’s future.
“[W]We are committed to providing full continuity of operations to our partners and customers [and] “The partnership between openai and Microsoft makes this very possible,” Altman said on X. “It was one team, one mission,” the 38-year-old entrepreneur said.
In an interview with Bloomberg on Monday, Nadella could not say who would be OpenAI’s CEO on Tuesday, but said he would leave the decision “up to OpenAI and its board.”
He added that Altman will be able to pursue his side projects while working at Microsoft. Altman has a nuclear fission project and a cryptocurrency project, and has sought to start a hardware company and a chip company, according to people familiar with the matter. “We will work through the governance aspects of it,” Nadella said.
Hundreds of OpenAI employees who signed Monday’s letter said they had been offered positions in the new unit at Microsoft, and “will take this step soon, unless all current board members resign and the board appoints two new lead independent directors.”
Altman and Brockman were removed by the four other board members on Friday. By Monday, one of the board members, Ilya Sutskever, had joined the staff.
Sutskever, chief scientist at OpenAI, signed the letter from employees after the first apology On social media For his role in the firing of Altman.
He wrote on the
The other remaining directors are Adam D’Angelo, CEO of Quora; technology entrepreneur Tasha McCauley; and Helen Toner of the Center for Security and Emerging Technology.
Some of the most prominent investors in the OpenAI project were holding out hope that Altman would return. The company’s board made a “huge error in judgement,” Vinod Khosla, an early supporter of OpenAI, wrote in a scathing op-ed published by The Information on Monday. Khosla later called on Scheer to resign.
“Every problem has a solution,” Josh Kushner, founder of Thrive Capital, wrote on X. Thrive is expected to be the lead buyer in the sale of up to $1 billion of OpenAI employee stock to investors, which was expected to close in 2018. In the coming weeks. The sale, which was an opportunity for employees to capitalize on OpenAI’s success, was expected to give the company a valuation of $86 billion, people familiar with the plans said.
A share sale is now in the balance, with the weekend drama marking a fundamental change in circumstances, but it is possible to move forward if Altman returns, one of the people familiar with the situation said.
At the same time, competitors seek to take advantage of the chaos within the company. In a social media post on Monday, Marc Benioff, CEO of software company Salesforce, asked OpenAI researchers to send him their resumes and offered him the equivalent of their salaries.
The exact reason behind Altman’s dismissal remains unclear, with OpenAI’s board of directors saying only that he had not been “consistently honest.” “The board got to the point where they couldn’t believe what Sam told them,” said one person with direct knowledge of the board’s decision.
Scheer, who has publicly called for a slower deployment of artificial intelligence, tried to suppress reports that a disagreement over safety was part of the argument. “The board did not fire Sam over any specific safety disagreement.” Written on X. “I’m not crazy enough to take on this job without the board’s support to market our amazing models.”
Scheer wrote that he would appoint an independent investigator to report on “the entire process leading up to this point” and could push for “significant changes in management if necessary.”
Nadella said his company remains committed to its partnership with OpenAI and looks forward to working with Shear and the new leadership team.
Microsoft has committed more than $10 billion in capital and infrastructure credits to OpenAI — though not all of that capital has been withdrawn — and has integrated OpenAI’s powerful generative AI tools into its own software.
Altman told the Financial Times this month that he planned to raise more investments from the Seattle group, saying he had a “great partner” in Microsoft.
Microsoft shares closed at a record high on Monday after rising 2.1 percent, reversing losses incurred late Friday after Altman’s firing.
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