On November 17th, OpenAI’s board abruptly announced that co-founder and CEO Sam Altman was out, effective immediately. Without saying it directly, the board revealed Altman was fired after a review “concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.” OpenAI’s chief technology officer, Mira Murati, has been appointed interim CEO for now.
What caused the board to lose confidence in his ability to lead OpenAI is unknown. OpenAI employees and partners like Microsoft were surprised to learn of Altman’s ouster only moments before it was announced.
The shakeup comes just shy of one year after the launch of ChatGPT, which quickly entered mainstream conversation, became one of the fastest-growing apps in history, and initiated an industry-wide race to build generative AI tools and hardware to power them. At OpenAI’s first developer conference just a week before his ouster, Altman said the service had over 100 million weekly users, and more than two million developers were building on the company’s APIs.
All of the news and updates about OpenAI’s executive turnover continue below.
Sam Altman isn’t coming back to OpenAI
After a weekend of negotiations to potentially bring back Sam Altman as OpenAI CEO following his shock firing, the company’s nonprofit board has gone another way entirely and named former Twitch CEO and co-founder Emmett Shear as interim CEO, according to a person familiar with the matter. He will take over as CEO from Mira Murati, who was publicly aligned with Altman.
That’s three CEOs in three days, if you’re keeping track.
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The deal to bring Sam Altman back to OpenAI appears to be going sideways.
Bloomberg is now reporting that interim CEO Mira Murati is trying to re-hire Altman and former president Greg Brockman in some sort of role, all while the board is trying to replace her as CEO. It is a mess — and keep in mind that the clock is ticking for Microsoft, which definitely wants to have a clear and convincing statement for its shareholders when the markets open tomorrow morning. Vibe check: bad.
Even as Murati works to bring Altman and Brockman back, members of the OpenAI board are also seeking to hire their own CEO to succeed Altman, a person with direct knowledge of the search said. Picking a different CEO would come as a stinging rebuke to investors, led by Microsoft Corp. and Thrive Capital, who have urged the board to step down and want Altman reinstated.
The OpenAI negotiations are being fueled by boba tea and McDonalds.
The NYT has been updating its piece on the OpenAI negotiations all day — the paper of record has a reporter staked out in front of the building, so we know what delivery is being ordered. It is very funny that a bunch of people concerned with existential AI risk are ordering McDs!
As deliberations continued on Sunday, executives at OpenAI called in resources. At 12:45 p.m., a deliveryman with a dozen drinks from the Boba Guys chain showed up on a motorbike outside with two bags. Another deliveryman followed later with a half dozen more drinks.
At 6:15 p.m., a food delivery driver pulled up at the rear entrance and jumped out with four bags from McDonald’s. Two employees from OpenAI loaded them on carts and wheeled them inside for what looked to be a long night.
It’s the endgame for Sam Altman’s potential return to OpenAI.
Sam Altman is back in the building at OpenAI for the final stretch of negotiations for his potential return as CEO after being unceremoniously fired by the four-member board on Friday. A source close to Altman says he has once again set a 5PM PT deadline to resolve the situation, as he did yesterday — that big show of heart emoji support last night was meant to demonstrate how many people would leave for a new company with him.
One big condition of Altman’s return is that the existing board (who fired him!) has to step down. The existing board has to make some hard decisions about who will replace them, which appears to be the sticking point. Microsoft’s Satya Nadella is reportedly mediating the discussion between Altman, former OpenAI president Greg Brockman, and the four current board members as they attempt to select a new board. We’re also told Microsoft would very much like to wrap this up before the stock market opens tomorrow morning. (Microsoft declined to comment; OpenAI’s communications team isn’t returning calls.)
Today’s 5PM deadline is meant to be a hard deadline, per the source close to Altman. If a deal isn’t reached, things will take “a different path,” we’re told, and extend through tomorrow and perhaps much longer.
Updates to come!
Why OpenAI employees were posting all those heart emojis.
Saturday evening, hours after we broke the news that Altman was being asked to return to OpenAI by the board that fired him, he posted the following on X: “i love the openai team so much.”
Then, a lot of OpenAI employees started reposting him with the heart emoji. I’ve been told by multiple sources that the action was meant to signal to the board who would leave OpenAI to follow Altman to a new company. “A very large portion of people were there because of Greg [Brockman, the now-resigned president] and Sam,” one source says.
About that new venture.
Former (and future?) OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has been pitching custom, Nvidia-rivaling AI Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) chips, according to a report in The New York Times. He’s reportedly also sought funding from Masayoshi Son, SoftBank’s founder, for his rumored Jony Ive AI hardware collaboration.
Today, Bloomberg reported that the TPU project is code-named “Tigris,” and that “a number of prominent venture firms,” including Microsoft, are ready to or interested in backing Altman’s future projects.
Where we are with the Sam Altman saga.
It has been a whirlwind couple of days. If you’re catching up, here’s a summary of the ongoing crisis at OpenAI:
• The company published a blog post Friday afternoon announcing that it had fired Altman as CEO and that board chair Greg Brockman was stepping down. The board said Altman hadn’t been candidly communicating with them.
• CTO Mira Murati was named interim CEO.
• Brockman later said “I quit.”
• Altman and Brockman posted a joint statement saying they were “shocked and saddened” by the board’s actions.
• Three high-level researchers reportedly quit in protest: Jakob Pachocki, Aleksander Madry, and Szymon Sidor.
• Sources said that Ilya Sutskever, Open AI’s chief scientist, was instrumental in Altman’s firing.
• Yesterday, sources told The Verge that OpenAI was trying to get Altman back as CEO.
• Altman has conditions, including that the board members who fired him quit. The board has been waffling and negotiations pushed past a key 5PM PT deadline on Saturday.
• The Verge heard there would be mass resignations if no deal was reached by 5PM PT. A deal didn’t happen, and the talks are continuing today.
• OpenAI is “optimistic” it can get Altman back. A memo to staff last night said an update is expected this morning.
The OpenAI drama will drag on until Sunday.
We’d heard there was a threat of mass resignations at 5PM PT. Then OpenAI employees began mass-quote-tweeting Sam Altman saying he loved them with heart emojis, leading everyone to assume he indeed was coming back as CEO. But it’s still not a done deal, and we still don’t know exactly what all that meant. What we do know is that talks appear to be done for today, so we’re going to bed, Las Vegas Grand Prix be damned. We’ll try this all again tomorrow.
The OpenAI board is waffling on resigning, and that might push Sam Altman to start a new company after all.
Big update to our scoop from earlier: a key 5PM PT deadline for the OpenAI board to strike a deal to resign and Sam Altman to return has passed, and mass resignations at OpenAI may come soon, unless this thing gets done.
More on the pressure for OpenAI’s board to restore Sam Altman as CEO.
Along with the news from Alex Heath and Nilay Patel that OpenAI’s board is in discussions with just-fired CEO Sam Altman about his return, now Bloomberg reports that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella “has been in touch with Altman and pledged to support him in whatever steps he takes next.”
The Wall Street Journal writes that Microsoft (the nonprofit’s primary financial backer) and Thrive Capital (its second-largest shareholder) are “ helping orchestrate the efforts” to restore Altman.
And according to this report by Forbes, the plan some investors are considering is to make the board consider the situation “untenable through a combination of mass revolt by senior researchers, withheld cloud computing credits from Microsoft, and a potential lawsuit from investors.”
OpenAI board in discussions with Sam Altman to return as CEO
The OpenAI board is in discussions with Sam Altman to return to the company as its CEO, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. One of them said Altman, who was suddenly fired by the board on Friday with no notice, is “ambivalent” about coming back and would want significant governance changes.
Update November 18th, 5:35PM PT: A source close to Altman says the board had agreed in principle to resign and to allow Altman and Brockman to return, but has since waffled — missing a key 5PM PT deadline by which many OpenAI staffers were set to resign. If Altman decides to leave and start a new company, those staffers would assuredly go with him.
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Sam Altman says he has a new venture in mind.
The Information reported today that, fresh off being forced out of OpenAI, Sam Altman is spreading the word among investors that he has a new project in the works, possibly with the company’s former president, Greg Brockman.
Not long ago, rumors said Altman and Jony Ive would partner on an “iPhone of Artificial Intelligence” project, but later he said whatever ideas he has are “very nascent.”
OpenAI’s COO told employees that Sam Altman wasn’t fired for “malfeasance.”
That’s according to a memo Axios saw that chief operating officer Brad Lightcap sent out. Lightcap ruled out some of the possible reasons why Altman was let go:
“We can say definitively that the board’s decision was not made in response to malfeasance or anything related to our financial, business, safety, or security/privacy practices. This was a breakdown in communication between Sam and the board.”
After OpenAI announced Altman’s firing, company president Greg Brockman quit, as did three senior researchers.
This is how OpenAI fired its CEO, Sam Altman.
Former OpenAI president and chair Greg Brockman’s post on X tells his version of the events that pushed Sam Altman out of OpenAI (Altman reshared the post, and put up a message that today “has been sorta like reading your own eulogy while you’re still alive”).
According to Brockman, OpenAI Chief Scientist and board member Ilya Sutskever texted Altman on Thursday night asking to talk at noon on Friday (November 17th). At noon, on a Google Meet call with Sutskever, as well as non-employee board members Adam D’Angelo, Tasha McCauley, and Helen Toner, “Ilya told Sam he was being fired and that the news was going out very soon.”
Within minutes, Sutskever invited Brockman to a Google Meet call where he was informed of his removal from the board “…and that Sam had been fired. Around the same time, OpenAI published a blog post.”
What happened to Sam Altman?
On Thursday night, Sam Altman showed up at a warehouse in Oakland to talk to a room full of artists about generative AI. It was a busy day; just hours before, he was onstage at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in downtown San Francisco speaking to world leaders.
At the Oakland warehouse, Altman was his usual self, cheering OpenAI’s work and coming across as relaxed, according to someone in the audience. He couldn’t linger, though. At about 7:40PM he told the room that he was running late to a meeting and bounced.
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OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman is leaving, too
Sam Altman isn’t the only major OpenAI executive leaving the company on Friday. Hours after Altman was fired, with the board saying it “no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI,” co-founder and former board chair Greg Brockman revealed on X that he is also quitting.
When OpenAI announced the “leadership transition” and that CTO Mira Murati would take over as interim CEO, it said that Brockman would step down as chairman but remain in his role at the company, reporting to the CEO. Just a few hours later, that’s no longer true.
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Sam Altman makes his first statement after getting ousted from OpenAI.
The former CEO was suddenly fired by OpenAI’s board on Friday, and in a post on X, he gave no details on what happened but said he’ll “have more to say about what’s next later.”
OpenAI is letting anyone create their own version of ChatGPT
With the release of ChatGPT one year ago, OpenAI introduced the world to the idea of an AI chatbot that can seemingly do anything. Now, the company is releasing a platform for making custom versions of ChatGPT for specific use cases — no coding required.
In the coming weeks, these AI agents, which OpenAI is calling GPTs, will be accessible through the GPT Store. Details about how the store will look and work are scarce for now, though OpenAI is promising to eventually pay creators an unspecified amount based on how much their GPTs are used. GPTs will be available to paying ChatGPT Plus subscribers and OpenAI enterprise customers, who can make internal-only GPTs for their employees.
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