The future of ChatGPT maker OpenAI is up in the air after the shock removal of co-founders Sam Altman and Greg Brockman.
The duo, CEO and president respectively, were removed from the board of directors on Friday as the company they founded accused Altman of not being “consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities”.
Former Twitch boss Emmett Shear installed as interim CEO. This summer Shear described the company’s generative AI as “like someone invented a way to make 10x more powerful fusion bombs out of sand and bleach, that anyone could do at home”.
Almost all of OpenAI’s 770 employees have signed an open letter calling on its board to resign and for the reinstatement of Altman and Brockman. “Our work on AI safety and governance shapes global norms. The products we built are used by millions of people around the world,” it read.
“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.
“When we all unexpectedly learned of your decision, the leadership team of OpenAI acted swiftly to stabilize the company. They carefully listened to your concerns and tried to cooperate with you on all grounds. Despite many requests for specific facts for your allegations, you have never provided any written evidence. They also increasingly realized you were not capable of carrying out your duties, and were negotiating in bad faith.
“The leadership team suggested that the most stabilizing path forward – the one that would best serve our mission, company, stakeholders, employees and the public – would be for you to resign and put in place a qualified board that could lead the company forward in stability.
“Leadership worked with you around the clock to find a mutually agreeable outcome. Yet within two days of your initial decision, you again replaced interim CEO Mira Murati against the best interests of the company. You also informed the leadership team that allowing the company to be destroyed ‘would be consistent with the mission’.”
Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella wrote on X that Altman had joined the tech giant – which has invested billions of dollars in OpenAI in return for a 49% stake – to lead “a new advanced AI research team”.
Brockman has also been appointed within the subsidiary, with all OpenAI workers invited to join.
“We are unable to work for or with people that lack competence, judgement and care for our mission and employees,” the letter, referring to OpenAI, continued.
“We, the undersigned, may choose to resign from OpenAI and join the newly announced Microsoft subsidiary run by Sam Altman and Greg Brockman. Microsoft has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAI employees at this new subsidiary should we choose to join.
“We will take this step imminently, unless all current board members resign, and the board appoints two new lead independent directors, such as Bret Taylor and Will Hurd, and reinstates Sam Altman and Greg Brockman.”
Chief scientist Ilya Sutskever – himself a member of the OpenAI board – expressed his regret over the move to oust the founders. “Now I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions,” he posted on X.
“I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company.”
Shear, meanwhile, claimed on X: “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 commercializing our awesome models.”
Altman himself posted that “Satya and my top priority remains to ensure OpenAI continues to thrive”.
“We are committed to fully providing continuity of operations to our partners and customers. The OpenAI/Microsoft partnership makes this very doable,” he wrote on X.
“We are all going to work together some way or other, and I’m so excited. One team, one mission.”
Meanwhile Marc Benioff, chair and CEO of CRM giant Salesforce, has offered jobs to all OpenAI researchers who have tendered resignation.