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. The number of signatures had risen to about 700 from OpenAI’s 770 employees 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 to the world’s most prominent AI startups was a stunning reversal for the group that pushed generative AI into the mainstream with the launch of ChatGPT nearly a year ago. Until last week, OpenAI was seen as the world leader in developing and commercializing the technology, which is upending 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 also the largest investor in OpenAI, announced that it has hired 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.
Their top priority was ensuring OpenAI continued to thrive, Altman posted on X, adding: “We are committed to providing full continuity of operations to our partners and customers.” [and] The openai/microsoft partnership makes this very possible. “It was one team, one mission,” the 38-year-old businessman said.
Hundreds of OpenAI employees who signed the 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, who is also chief scientist at OpenAI, had employees sign the letter after the kickoff Move to social media To apologize for his role in Altman’s firing.
“I deeply regret my involvement in the Board’s actions. I never meant to harm OpenAI,” he wrote on
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 on his first day as interim CEO.
“Every problem has a solution,” Josh Kushner, founder of Thrive Capital, wrote on X. Thrive is expected to be the lead buyer in the OpenAI employee stock sale, which was expected to close in the coming weeks. That sale, an opportunity for employees to capitalize on OpenAI’s success by selling to investors, was expected to include up to $1 billion in equity and give the company a valuation of $86 billion, people familiar with the plans said.
The stock sale is now in the balance, with the weekend drama representing a fundamental change in circumstances, but it is possible to go ahead as planned 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.
OpenAI’s launch of its chatbot ChatGPT a year ago sparked an AI boom that has attracted billions of dollars in investment and spawned dozens of startups.
ChatGPT uses so-called generative artificial intelligence to respond to text, speech or image prompts — a technological leap seen by many in Silicon Valley as the most significant since the advent of the smartphone.
The exact reason behind Altman’s dismissal remains unclear, with OpenAI’s board of directors saying only that he had not been “consistently honest.”
According to people familiar with the matter, his departure stems from concerns about his commitment to OpenAI’s mission of ensuring safe and useful artificial intelligence.
A person with direct knowledge of the board’s decision said it had become “impossible to supervise” the co-founder. “The board had gotten to the point where they couldn’t believe what Sam was telling them,” this person added.
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 “getting to know and working with Emmett Shear and the new leadership team at OpenAI.”
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.
Microsoft shares closed at a record high on Monday after rising 2.1 percent, reversing losses incurred late Friday following the announcement of Altman’s dismissal.
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.
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