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’.
The letter added that the employees ‘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, was also fired 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
Sam Altman with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who has hired the former OpenAI boss to lead a new AI research team at Microsoft
The letter from around 550 of OpenAI’s 700 staff to its board said: ‘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.’
Ilya Sutskever’s decision to sign the letter marks a dramatic about-turn. He is on the board and backed the decision to fire Altman.
He also tweeted on Monday: ‘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 swooped in to hire Altman and Brockman to lead a new AI team, the tech giant’s CEO Satya Nadella announced.
The bombshell comes after a dramatic few days that saw OpenAI’s board fire Altman, saying he ‘was not consistently candid in his communications’ with them, before unhappy investors, including Microsoft, reportedly tried to claw him back to the firm.
Altman’s shock sacking sparked fury among ‘blindsided’ OpenAI staff, with accusations that it was the result of a ‘boardroom coup’ – prompting a string of resignations.
A pushback ensued, with The Information reporting that a leaked memo from the company’s chief strategy officer, Jason Kwon, hinted at ‘optimism’ that Altman would return.
Reports on Sunday suggested that Altman was open to coming back if a new board was put in place. But, without this happening and with Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear taking over as interim CEO, he instead made the move to Microsoft.
Some of his disgruntled OpenAI colleagues are expected to follow suit. Following his appointment by Microsoft, Altman wrote on X: ‘The mission continues’ while Brockman posted, ‘We are going to build something new & it will be incredible.’
The announcement, made by Nadella on X before the markets opened on Monday, saw Microsoft’s share price bounce back 2 per cent before the bell – a welcome rise after news of Altman’s departure from OpenAI saw a similar fall on Friday.
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 replied to his new hire: ‘I’m super excited to have you join as CEO of this new group, Sam, setting a new pace for innovation’.
There has been huge reaction from the tech world to the news, including from X boss Elon Musk who quipped: ‘Now they will have to use Teams!’ in reference to Microsoft’s video calling application.
The decision has been hailed as a bold move by Nadella, who has made no secret of his ambition to push Microsoft ahead of its competitors in the field of AI.
Also on X, he wrote: ‘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.’
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.’
Nadella also appeared to confirm Emmett Shear’s reported appointment as the new OpenAI CEO, a company which Microsoft has invested billions in, saying they are ‘looking forward to getting to know Emmett Shear and OpenAI’s new leadership team and working with them.’
Altman’s recent shock firing from the firm was put in doubt by a leaked memo which claimed there was optimism he could be brought back.
But just three hours after OpenAI co-founder and board director Ilya Sutskever told staff that Altman would not be returning as CEO, Nadella made the announcement that he was instead joining partner Microsoft.
On Sunday, Altman posted a snap of himself using an OpenAI guest-pass while visiting his old employer on X, 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.
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.
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.
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
In a series of interviews, insiders described how the Soviet-born AI researcher had become worried about OpenAI’s budding technology in the buildup to the firing, as the company experienced some whirlwind success thanks to its now-viral ChatBot.
The 37-year-old proceeded to share his belief his boss was not paying enough attention to such risks – 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, though rather cryptically.
He wrote in two separate posts to X, formerly Twitter: ‘I love you all. [T]oday was a weird experience in many ways. [B]ut 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
‘[T]he 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. [I]t was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit. [M]ost of all [I] loved working with such talented people.
‘[W]ill have more to say about what’s next later.’
Not much has been said since, causing a storm of speculation.
The official reason provided by the company was a ‘lack of communication’ between Altman and his fellow board members – despite two of them, Jakob Pachocki and fellow cofounder Greg Brockman, seemingly taken aback by the firing.
Both quit in protest of the alleged ambush late Friday night, while the board members who reportedly approved of the sacking, Tasha McCauley, Helen Toner, Adam D’Angelo, and Sutskever, stayed.
It reportedly was a memo sent by Sutskever that asserted Altman will not return to the company as CEO, according to The Information, despite efforts from other execs to bring him back.
The report, published Sunday did not give any other details of the new arrangement, which was confirmed by several outlets including Bloomberg, ABC and the Wall Street Journal.
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)
Altman and former OpenAI President Brockman joined executives at the company’s San Francisco headquarters on Sunday, after interim CEO Mira Murati – who held the role for barely a day – told staff she invited Altman, The Information earlier reported.
Insiders who spoke to the tech site said Altman is discussing a possible return to the company to improve its governance structure, as he also mulls launching a new artificial intelligence venture, Reuters reported on Sunday.
The Times report also shed some light on the still-shrouded meeting between the board members, during which Altman – hours after appearing publicly on behalf of his company at Thursday’s APEC Summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping – joined via video.
There, an insider said, Sutskever read from a script that closely resembled a post the now $90million company penned in the wake of the vote – one that blamed their boss’s sudden sacking on his lack of transparency with the rest of the board.
That blog post, while vague, claimed Altman ‘was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.’
Neither Sutskever – an undergraduate at the University of Toronto who helped create a breakthrough in AI called neural networks – nor Altman immediately responded to the Times’ requests for comment.
Two insiders who spoke to the paper added that Sutskever, in his bid to get his cofounder out of the company, also objected to what he saw as a diminished role inside the company, amid its somewhat sudden success.
Both women went on to oust Altman – to the chagrin of fellow board members Jakob Pachocki (left) and Greg Brockman, who both quit in protest of the alleged ambush late Friday night
Altman and former OpenAI President Brockman joined executives at the company’s San Francisco headquarters on Sunday, after interim CEO Mira Murati – who held the role for barely a day – told staff she invited Altman, The Information earlier reported
Insiders who spoke to the tech site said Altman is discussing a possible return to the company to improve its governance structure, as he reportedly mulls launching a new AI venture
The board ultimately elected Altman, who to many was the human face of generative AI, sending shock waves across the tech industry.
Altman posted on Sunday on messaging platform X an image of himself wearing an OpenAI guest badge with the caption: ‘first and last time i ever wear one of these.’
Altman’s sacking angered current and former employees and worried them over how an upcoming $86 billion share sale could be affected by the sudden management upheaval.
OpenAI’s former president and co-founder Brockman also arrived at the office on Sunday, after sensationally stepping down from the board as chairman as part of the management shuffle, and confirmed on Friday he quit the company.
If Altman returns to OpenAI, Microsoft, its biggest backer, is considering taking a role on the board, the Information further reported, citing two people familiar with the talks.
Microsoft could either take a seat on OpenAI’s board of directors, or as a board observer without voting power, the report added.
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.
By Daily Mail Online, November 20, 2023