21st November 2023 – (San Francisco) OpenAI, the leading artificial intelligence company, witnessed a wave of potential staff resignations on Monday, with hundreds considering joining Microsoft. The crisis was triggered by the surprising dismissal of CEO Sam Altman.
Following his removal by the board on Friday, Altman has swiftly transitioned to Microsoft, where he will spearhead the development of a new advanced AI research team. While there were discussions about the possibility of Altman returning to OpenAI, it was contingent on certain conditions.
Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, expressed a desire to collaborate with OpenAI and Altman, emphasizing that regardless of Altman’s location, he would be working alongside Microsoft. Nadella reaffirmed this stance during a streamed Bloomberg interview, stating that it held true on Friday, remains the case today, and will continue to be so in the future.
In a public letter, the majority of OpenAI’s 770 employees indicated their intention to follow Altman, provided the board responsible for his departure resigns. The letter criticized the board’s ability to oversee OpenAI and highlighted Microsoft’s assurance of job opportunities for OpenAI employees at their new subsidiary.
A key AI executive at Microsoft confirmed that all OpenAI employees would be welcomed if the board responsible for Altman’s removal steps down.
Among the signatories of the letter was Ilya Sutskever, co-founder, chief scientist of OpenAI, and a member of the board that ousted Altman. Sutskever expressed regret for his involvement in the board’s actions, stating that he never intended to harm OpenAI.
Mira Murati, another signatory, briefly assumed the role of CEO after Altman’s removal on Friday but did not continue in the position through the weekend. Altman expressed excitement about working together with the OpenAI team in some capacity.
Despite pressure from Microsoft and other major investors to reinstate Altman, OpenAI appointed Emmett Shear, the former CEO of Amazon’s streaming platform Twitch, as its new CEO. Altman will now lead a new advanced AI research team at Microsoft, alongside OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman.
Microsoft has invested over $10 billion in OpenAI and has incorporated the AI pioneer’s technology into its own products. Nadella reaffirmed Microsoft’s commitment to its partnership with OpenAI.
Altman gained prominence with the launch of ChatGPT, which sparked a race in AI research and development and attracted billions in investments to the sector. His dismissal led to several high-profile departures from OpenAI and prompted investor efforts to reinstate him.
OpenAI defended its decision in a memo sent to employees, citing concerns about Altman’s behaviour and lack of transparency, which undermined the board’s supervisory capabilities.
Emphasising the mishandling of Altman’s removal and its impact on trust, Shear confirmed his appointment as OpenAI’s interim CEO in a post on X.