On November 17, artificial intelligence startup OpenAI shockingly announced that CEO Sam Altman – the man behind viral AI-based technologies such as chatbots ChatGPT, GPT4 and image generator DallE-3 – had been fired.
The tech world was shaken and Altman’s colleagues rallied to his side, with then-OpenAI chairman and co-founder Greg Brockman announcing his own resignation. Facing enormous public backlash from shareholders and employees, the board is in talks to possibly reinstate Altman.
Here’s what’s happened so far.
Thursday November 16
Ilya Sustekever schedules call with Altman
According to an X (formerly Twitter) post from Brockman, OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever messaged Altman on Thursday evening to schedule a meeting for Friday afternoon.
Sam and I are shocked and saddened by what the board did today.
Let’s first say thank you to all the incredible people we’ve worked with at OpenAI, our customers, our investors, and everyone who’s reached out to us.
We too are still trying to understand exactly…
-Greg Brockman (@gdb) November 18, 2023
Additionally, he claimed that Mira Murati, OpenAI’s CTO, was informed that Altman would be fired that evening.
Friday November 17
Brockman informed that Altman had been fired
Just after noon on Nov. 17, Brockman said Sutskever sent him a text asking him to answer a call. After joining the call a few minutes later, he was informed that he was being removed from the OpenAI board but would retain his role as chairman and that Altman had been fired.
OpenAI publicly declares that Altman is absent
OpenAI published a blog post stating that Altman was fired because he had not been “consistently candid in his communications with the board” and added that Murati would take over as interim CEO .
OpenAI announces leadership transition https://t.co/fFYDLwGXQz
-OpenAI (@OpenAI) November 17, 2023
Microsoft releases statement on OpenAI
Microsoft, OpenAI’s largest investor and partner, released a statement regarding Altman’s ouster, with CEO Satya Nadella trying to calm market nerves and reassure that Altman’s removal would have no major impact on the future of the partnership.
“We have a long-term agreement with OpenAI with full access to everything we need to deliver our innovation agenda and an exciting product roadmap, and remain committed to our partnership, as well as to Mira and to the team.
Following the public announcement of Altman’s departure, Brockman announced his own resignation.
After learning today’s news, here is the message I sent to the OpenAI team: https://t.co/NMnG16yFmm pic.twitter.com/8x39P0ejOM
-Greg Brockman (@gdb) November 18, 2023
Resignations pile up
Following Brockman’s resignation, a number of OpenAI’s senior executives followed suit, with the company’s chief readiness officer Aleksander Madfry and research director Jakub Pachoki announcing their respective resignations.
Saturday November 18
The shock shot was a surprise for management
OpenAI COO Brad Lightcap made the announcement as a surprise to all management, according to an internal memo seen by Axios on November 18.
“We can confidently say that the board’s decision was not made in response to any wrongdoing or anything related to our financial, business, safety or security/privacy practices. was a breakdown in communication between Sam and the board.”
Altman plans new business
The Information reported on November 18 that Altman had already begun discussing a new AI-related venture with investors. Brockman is expected to join Altman in whatever projects he pursues.
Microsoft ‘furious’ over Altman’s exit, pushes board to bring him back
Bloomberg reported on November 18 that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was “furious” over the decision and began pushing the board to consider reinstating Altman as CEO.
Board of directors agrees to reconsider Altman’s position
The Verge reported on November 18 that OpenAI’s board had “in principle” agreed to resign and bring back Altman as CEO and Brockman as president.
Related: Meta dissolves division responsible for AI in restructuring
Multiple sources said Sutskever’s “integral role” in Altman’s firing suggested there was a hotbed of tension between the nonprofit and for-profit sides of the company.
Sunday November 19
Altman to OpenAI before decision deadline
Altman posted a photo to X on November 19 at OpenAI headquarters with a guest badge as the deadline for a decision on his reinstatement as CEO was 5 p.m. PST.
first and last time I wear one pic.twitter.com/u3iKwyWj0a
– Sam Altman (@sama) November 19, 2023
Bringing Altman back as CEO could require the board to issue an apology as well as a statement clearing him of any wrongdoing, sources told Bloomberg.
Microsoft eyes board seat as insiders push for Altman’s return
The Information reported on November 19 that Microsoft was considering either a board seat or a non-voting board observer role if Altman returned. Bloomberg reported earlier that OpenAI’s top brass were pushing for Altman’s return, including interim CEO Mira Murati, chief strategy officer Jason Kwon and chief operating officer Brad Lightcap.
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