OpenAI, a leading AI technology firm, faced a major internal crisis as a significant number of its employees threatened to resign following the departure of former CEO Sam Altman, who recently joined Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT).
The turmoil started after Altman’s exit from OpenAI was announced last Friday, leading to his immediate appointment at Microsoft where he will spearhead a new AI initiative.
In response to these events, hundreds of OpenAI employees signed a letter demanding the resignation of the current board members. This letter, initially reported by Wired and journalist Kara Swisher, and later shared with NBC News, included a condition for employee retention: the board must step down, appoint new independent directors such as Bret Taylor and Will Hurd, and reinstate Altman and Greg Brockman.
The OpenAI spokesperson confirmed that the board had received the letter, which strongly criticized the board’s competence and decision-making. The letter stated, “We, the undersigned, may choose to resign from OpenAI and join the newly announced Microsoft subsidiary run by Sam Altman and Greg Brockman.” Over 700 employees reportedly signed the letter, although this number was not independently verified by NBC News.
Ilya Sutskever, an OpenAI co-founder and board member whose name appeared on the letter, expressed regret over his role in Altman’s departure on X and hinted at efforts to bring Altman back. Meanwhile, Emmett Shear, co-founder and former CEO of Twitch, was confirmed as OpenAI’s new interim CEO.
OpenAI, founded in 2015, has gained prominence in AI technology, especially with its widely popular chatbot app, ChatGPT. Microsoft, a significant financial supporter of OpenAI, announced the hiring of Altman early Monday, two days after OpenAI’s board expressed a lack of confidence in him.
Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, reaffirmed Microsoft’s commitment to OpenAI while also highlighting Altman’s role in leading a new advanced AI research team at Microsoft, alongside Brockman.
Altman, in a post resharing Nadella’s announcement, simply added, “The mission continues.” OpenAI had previously stated that it severed ties with Altman due to issues with his transparency in communications with the board.
Brockman, reacting to the board’s decision, expressed both shock and optimism for future endeavors in a post on X. Amidst these developments, CNBC reported that some OpenAI investors were advocating for Altman’s return, following the appointment of Mira Murati as interim CEO.
Shear, in his new role as OpenAI’s interim CEO, outlined a 30-day plan, including commissioning an independent investigation into the events leading to the current situation. He emphasized the importance of OpenAI’s stability and success and expressed respect for Altman and the team’s achievements at OpenAI.
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