OpenAI’s co-founder Ilya Sutskever and more than 500 other employees have threatened to quit the embattled company after its board dramatically fired CEO Sam Altman.
In an open letter to the company’s board, which voted to oust Altman on Friday, the group said it is obvious ‘that you are incapable of overseeing OpenAI’.
Sutskever is a member of the board and led the decision to fire Altman, before tweeting his ‘regret’ on Monday and adding his name to the letter.
Employees who signed the letter said that if the board does not step down, they ‘may choose to resign’ en masse and join ‘the newly announced Microsoft subsidiary run by Sam Altman’.
Altman was hired by Microsoft on Monday to lead an AI research department. Microsoft is the largest investor in OpenAI and was blindsided by the board’s decision to fire Altman.
Greg Brockman, another OpenAI co-founder, also departed as the company’s president on Friday.
OpenAI’s co-founder Ilya Sutskever and more than 500 other employees have threatened to quit the embattled company after its board dramatically fired CEO Sam Altman
Ilya Sutskever, a co-founder of OpenAI, is on the company’s board and backed the decision to fire Sam Altman. Sutksever has now tweeted his ‘regret’ over the decision and also signed an open letter with more than 500 other employees accusing the board of incompetence
Altman responded to Sutskever’s message with a series of heart emojis – a confusing development given it was reportedly Sutskever who led the decision to fire Altman
Sam Altman with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who has hired the former OpenAI boss to lead a new AI research team at Microsoft
OpenAI’s newly-appointed CEO, Emmett Shear, has also pledged an investigation into the board’s decision.
The letter from around 550 of OpenAI’s 700 staff to its board added: ‘The process through which you terminated Sam Altman and removed Greg Brockman from the board has jeopardized all of this work and undermined our mission and company.
‘Your conduct has made it clear you did not have the competence to oversee OpenAI.’
Sutskever, who reportedly led the board’s decision, added in a tweet: ‘I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company.’
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced on Monday that the company has hired Altman and Brockman to lead a new AI team. The development is viewed as a coup for Microsoft, which has invested billions in OpenAI and intends to use the company’s technology for its own computing businesses.
OpenAI’s board said Altman had not been ‘was not consistently candid in his communications’. The decision to fire him shocked the technology sector and sparked outrage among OpenAI investors and staff.
Incoming CEO Shear, who co-founded the Twitch streaming platform, said: ‘I took this job because I believe that OpenAI is one of the most important companies currently in existence.
‘Before I took the job, I checked on the reasoning behind the change. The board did *not* remove Sam over any specific disagreement on safety, their reasoning was completely different from that. I’m not crazy enough to take this job without board support for commercialising our awesome models.’
Shear said he will ‘hire an independent investigator to dig into the entire process leading up to this point and generate a full report’.
Following his appointment by Microsoft, Altman wrote on X: ‘The mission continues’. Brockman added: ‘We are going to build something new & it will be incredible.’
Microsoft’s share price jumped two percent in premarket trading on new it had hired Altman. The gains continued in early trading on Monday.
Sam Altman will not return as the CEO of ChapGPT-maker OpenAI, a statement to company staff reportedly states – and the recently resigned boss of Twitch will tentatively take his place
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made the bombshell announcement on X this morning
OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman, who will be joining the Microsoft team along with Sam Altman
Nadella added: ‘We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners.’
Timeline of Altman’s ousting
Friday: Sam Altman fired by OpenAI, leading the tech tycoon to comment on X that it was ‘sorta like reading your own eulogy while you’re still alive.’
Jakob Pachocki and fellow cofounder Greg Brockman, were seemingly taken aback by the firing and both also left the firm on Friday.
Saturday: There were efforts from execs to bring him back and a leaked memo to staff suggested the company was ‘optimistic’ about his possible return.
Sunday: Reports swirled that he was open to returning if there was a change of board and governance at the company.
Altman posted a snap of himself using an OpenAI guest-pass while visiting his old employer, and wrote: ‘first and last time i ever wear one of these.’
Monday: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that Altman and OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman would be joining the company to lead a new AI innovation team.
Former Twitch leader Emmett Shear has taken over as OpenAI’s interim chief executive.
More than 500 OpenAI staff signed a letter which said the board ‘is incapable of overseeing OpenAI’
Suggesting that Altman will be given the freedom to create a major new brand as part of Microsoft, Nadella also said: ‘We’ve learned a lot over the years about how to give founders and innovators space to build independent identities and cultures within Microsoft, including GitHub, Mojang Studios, and LinkedIn, and I’m looking forward to having [Altman] do the same.’
On Sunday, Altman posted a snap of himself using an OpenAI guest-pass while visiting his old employer, and wrote: ‘first and last time i ever wear one of these.’
Later the same day, citing an internal statement sent by Sutskever, The Information reported that Altman’s departure was final. It claimed Shear, a Yale graduate who helped found Justin.tv, would be the firm’s new interim CEO.
Shear, 40, also co-founded Twitch, but suddenly stepped down in March, leaving the live streaming platform after more than a decade.
His new temporary role will see him assume control of one of the fastest-growing firms in the world – putting to bed rumors Altman could make a return.
OpenAI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Aside from sparking worry amongst the public, this uncertainty was apparently also felt within OpenAI’s six-person board – with one of Altman’s cofounders in Sutskever leading the charge to have him nixed, according to a The New York Times report.
In a series of interviews, insiders described how the Soviet-born AI researcher Sutskever had become worried about OpenAI’s budding technology in the buildup to the firing, as the company experienced some whirlwind success thanks to Chat GPT.
Sam Altman posted an image of himself with an OpenAI guest pass on Sunday – saying it would be the first and last time he used one
The shuffle, first reported by The Information, comes hours after the shock firing of the company’s 38-year-old cofounder, and will see 40-year-old Emmett Shear (seen here at a web summit in 2018) assume the role of interim CEO
The 37-year-old proceeded to share his belief his boss was not paying enough attention to the risks of the technology – spurring three other board members to vote to remove Altman, leading two others to resign in protest.
An air of mystery has loomed ever since, with Altman – who helped start OpenAI in 2015, only commented on the ouster Friday.
He wrote in two separate posts to X, formerly Twitter: ‘I love you all. today was a weird experience in many ways. but one unexpected one is that it has been sorta like reading your own eulogy while you’re still alive.
The firing appeared to catch Altman off guard, as he did not elaborate as to what may have led to his departure. The official reason given by the company he founded was a lack of communication between him and other board members
‘the outpouring of love is awesome. one takeaway: go tell your friends how great you think they are.’
In the other, penned a few hours earlier and shortly after he was axed, Altman added: I loved my time at openai. it was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit. most of all i loved working with such talented people.
‘will have more to say about what’s next later.’
The official reason provided by the company was a ‘lack of communication’ between Altman and his fellow board members.
Founded by Altman and ten others in 2015, OpenAI rolled out ChatGPT a year ago – and its ability to mimic human writing has proved polarizing ever since
Sutskever reportedly led the charge to have Altman pulled – after successfully swaying fellow board members Tasha McCauley (left) and Helen Toner (right)
Microsoft provided OpenAI Global LLC with a $10 billion investment, on top of another $1 billion dished out to the firm in 2019.
Employees last month were trying to sell some of their shares at a valuation of $90 billion dollars, after it was was valued at about $29 billion in a share sale just a few months ago.
Forrester analyst Rowan Curran speculated that Altman’s departure, ‘while sudden,’ did not likely reflect deeper business problems.
‘This seems to be a case of an executive transition that was about issues with the individual in question, and not with the underlying technology or business,’ Curran said.