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OpenAI board expels Sam Altman, its high-profile CEO

Sam Altman, OpenAI’s high-profile chief executive who became the face of the tech industry’s artificial intelligence boom, has been ousted from the company by its board, OpenAI said in a statement. blog post Friday afternoon.

The move sparked a shakeup at OpenAI, a revolutionary AI company and maker of the popular chatbot ChatGPT. Mira Murati, previously OpenAI’s chief technology officer, has been named interim chief executive officer, the company said. Hours later, Greg Brockman, the company’s president, announced he was resigning.

“Mr. Altman’s departure follows a deliberative review process conducted by the Board of Directors, which concluded that he had not always been candid in his communications with the Board of Directors, which has hindered his ability to carry out his responsibilities,” the company said. “The Board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue to lead OpenAI.”

Leaving OpenAI is a stunning fall for Mr. Altman, 38, who over the past year has become one of the technology industry’s most prominent executives as well as one of its most fascinating characters. Last fall, OpenAI kicked off an industry-wide AI frenzy by launching ChatGPT.

It was not immediately clear what led to the board’s decision beyond what its statement said. Mr. Altman could not immediately be reached for comment. In a post on X, formerly Twitter, he wrote: “I loved my time at openai. it was transformative for me personally and hopefully for the world a bit. I especially enjoyed working with such talented people. I’ll have more to say about the sequel later.

In a message sent to X on Friday evening, Mr. Brockman said that he and Mr. Altman had not been notified of the board’s decision. “Sam and I are shocked and saddened by what the board did today,” he wrote. “We, too, are still trying to understand exactly what happened.”

Mr. Altman was asked to participate in a video meeting with the board at noon Friday and was immediately fired, according to Mr. Brockman. Mr. Brockman said that although he was chairman of the board, he did not attend that board meeting.

He said the board informed him of Mr. Altman’s ouster a few minutes later. Around the same time, the board published a blog post.

A longtime tech entrepreneur, Mr. Altman helped found OpenAI with financial backing from Elon Musk in 2015. He led the small San Francisco company into rare territory: a technology leader funded by billions of dollars. dollars from Microsoft and envied by Silicon Valley giants like Google. and Meta, the parent company of Facebook.

Mr. Altman has also become a spokesperson for the tech industry’s move toward AI, testifying before Congress and charming lawmakers and regulators around the world. Many in the industry believe AI is the biggest technological change in generations, and no one has done more to get the general public excited than Altman.

On Thursday evening, Mr. Altman appeared at an event in Oakland, California, where he discussed the future of art and artists now that artificial intelligence can generate images, videos, sounds and other art forms. Giving no indication that he was leaving OpenAI, he repeatedly stated that he and the company would continue to work alongside artists and help ensure their future was bright.

Earlier in the day, he appeared at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit in San Francisco with Laurene Powell Jobs, founder and president of Emerson Collective, and executives from Meta and Google.

Mr. Brockman, who helped found OpenAI alongside Mr. Altman, said in an article on X that he was resigning. The company announced earlier today that he would step down as chairman of the board but would remain president, reporting to the chief executive.

Reached by telephone, Mr. Brockman declined to comment. From OpenAI’s earliest days, he has been instrumental in shaping its mission and daily operations.

When OpenAI launched ChatGPT last November, the chatbot attracted hundreds of millions of users, wowing people with the way it answered questions, wrote poetry, and discussed almost any topic thrown at it.

After the success of the chatbot, the tech industry as a whole adopted what is known as generative artificial intelligence, technologies that can generate text, images, and other media on their own. The result of more than a decade of research at companies like OpenAI and Google, these technologies are poised to reshape everything from email programs to Internet search engines to digital tutors.

OpenAI is in talks to close a new financing round that would value the company at more than $80 billion — nearly triple its valuation less than a year ago — and it’s unclear what Mr. Altman’s departure will mean will mean for these negotiations.

But its withdrawal is a blow to Microsoft, which invested $13 billion in OpenAI and owns a 49% stake in the company. Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, outlined a broad plan this year to use technology developed at OpenAI in nearly every Microsoft product, from the Bing search engine to its widely used enterprise software. Mr Altman joined him at a press event to announce the plans.

Microsoft said Friday afternoon that it plans to continue working closely with OpenAI. Mr. Nadella said in a statement that the company’s long-term agreement with OpenAI has provided Microsoft with “full access to everything we need to deliver on our innovation agenda and an exciting product roadmap.” He added that the company remained committed “to our partnership, and to Mira and the team.”

Microsoft’s stock price fell more than 1 percent in the last 30 minutes of trading after Mr. Altman’s departure was announced.

In a message to OpenAI employees seen by The New York Times, Ms. Murati said she had spoken with Mr. Nadella and Microsoft’s chief technology officer, Kevin Scott, on Friday and that they remained supportive of OpenAI .

“We are now at a crucial moment where our tools are widely adopted, developers are actively building on our platforms, and policymakers are deliberating the best ways to regulate these systems,” she wrote. “It is more important than ever that we stay focused, motivated and true to our core values. »

OpenAI’s four-member board of directors is a mix of respected AI researchers, technology leaders, and AI policy experts, including Ilya Sutskever, chief scientist and co-founder of the company, and Adam D’Angelo, general manager of the Q&A center. Quora website. Board members could not immediately be reached for comment.

Current and former OpenAI employees were shocked by the news. As recently as Friday morning, they were talking about Mr. Altman as if he had a long future with the company. Researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors outside the company were equally surprised, with many wondering why OpenAI’s board made this decision.

Jack Altman, one of Mr. Altman’s younger brothers and chief executive of the enterprise software startup Lattice, defended his brother on X.

“More important than being one of the brightest and most influential people our industry has ever had,” he wrote, “Sam is one of the most generous and caring people I know .I have never met anyone who supported and uplifted more people around him than him. I couldn’t be a prouder brother.

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