On Friday afternoon in the week before Thanksgiving, a majority of the Board of Directors voted to oust Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI and one of its founders. Altman has been the most visible face for OpenAI since it launched ChatGPT about a year ago and took the world by storm.
The Board announced the decision in a blog post titled, “OpenAI announces leadership transition.” The post stated:
Mr. Altman’s departure follows a deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities. The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.
In a statement, the board of directors said: “OpenAI was deliberately structured to advance our mission: to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all humanity. The board remains fully committed to serving this mission. We are grateful for Sam’s many contributions to the founding and growth of OpenAI. At the same time, we believe new leadership is necessary as we move forward. As the leader of the company’s research, product, and safety functions, Mira is exceptionally qualified to step into the role of interim CEO. We have the utmost confidence in her ability to lead OpenAI during this transition period.”OpenAI Board of Directors on Nov. 17, 2023
If one can read in between the lines, the Board seemed to be displeased with the direction of OpenAI in a for-profit subsidiary corporation under a nonprofit. On Nov. 6, at developer’s day, Altman had announced a planned GPT Store (similar to Apple’s app store) where people can release and commercialize their custom GPTs and obtain revenue sharing with the company.
X, formerly known as Twitter, was rife with rampant, if not wild, speculation on other possible reasons for Altman’s ousting.
Altman tweeted a thank you note:
A couple hours later, the (former) chairman of the Board and co-founder Greg Brockman quit, in protest of Altman’s firing.
A few hours later, Bockman shared more details about the purge at OpenAI:
Here is what we know: – Last night, Sam got a text from Ilya asking to talk at noon Friday. Sam joined a Google Meet and the whole board, except Greg, was there. Ilya told Sam he was being fired and that the news was going out very soon. – At 12:19pm, Greg got a text from Ilya asking for a quick call. At 12:23pm, Ilya sent a Google Meet link. Greg was told that he was being removed from the board (but was vital to the company and would retain his role) and that Sam had been fired. Around the same time, OpenAI published a blog post. – As far as we know, the management team was made aware of this shortly after, other than Mira who found out the night prior. The outpouring of support has been really nice; thank you, but please don’t spend any time being concerned. We will be fine. Greater things coming soon.Greg Bockman on X, Nov. 17, 2023
Altman then tweeted:
The OpenAI Board appointed Mira Murati, the company’s CTO, to serve as interim CEO. The Board “consists of OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, independent directors Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, technology entrepreneur Tasha McCauley, and Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology’s Helen Toner.”
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella tweeted about their continued partnership with OpenAI and working with Mira Murati: