Sam Altman ousted as OpenAI’s CEO – Sam Altman has been dismissed from OpenAI, Inc., the 501(c)(3) nonprofit overseeing OpenAI, the AI startup responsible for ChatGPT, DALL-E 3, GPT-4, and other advanced generative AI systems. He will no longer serve on the company’s board of directors and is stepping down from the CEO position.
In a post on OpenAI’s official blog, the company writes that Altman’s departure follows a “deliberative review process by the board” that concluded that Altman “wasn’t consistently candid in his communications” with other board members, “hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.” “The board no longer has confidence in [Altman’s] ability to continue leading OpenAI,” the blog post reads.
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In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Altman wrote that he “loved his time at OpenAI” and will have “more to say about what’s next later.” OpenAI’s significant shift in leadership includes Greg Brockman, a co-founder alongside Altman, stepping down as board chairman while continuing as OpenAI’s president, reporting to the newly-appointed interim CEO, Mira Murati, the former OpenAI CTO. The company has announced the initiation of a formal search for a permanent CEO without delay.
“OpenAI was deliberately structured to advance our mission: to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all humanity,” the board wrote in a joint statement. “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’s current board of directors comprises Ilya Sutskever, the chief scientist; Adam D’Angelo, CEO of Quora; Tasha McCauley, a tech entrepreneur; and Helen Toner, director of strategy at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology.
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The sudden removal of Altman is particularly surprising. Just last week, he hosted OpenAI DevDay, the company’s inaugural developer conference, and was actively involved in public engagements, including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference and an event in Oakland, California. According to reports from The Verge and The New York Times, OpenAI employees learned of Altman’s termination simultaneously with its public announcement.
Altman has played a pivotal role in steering OpenAI, co-founding it with figures like Peter Thiel and Reid Hoffman. Initially serving as a co-chair alongside Elon Musk, Altman has been involved in significant initiatives, such as his active participation in shaping regulatory responses to AI. This included appearances at U.S. congressional hearings and meetings with global leaders like President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and French President Emmanuel Macron during an international policy tour.
The reasons behind Altman’s departure from OpenAI remain unclear, though they seem linked to his role in navigating the unique board structure and corporate governance of OpenAI, possibly tied to the organization’s active discussions on securing significant new capital. OpenAI’s for-profit subsidiary, OpenAI Global, LLC, is under the full control of the nonprofit. While the subsidiary can commercialize its technology, it is bound by the nonprofit’s mission of achieving artificial general intelligence (AGI).
The nonprofit’s board holds the authority to determine AGI achievement and control commercial terms, impacting major investors like Microsoft, which has invested $13 billion and holds a substantial 49% stake in OpenAI. Following Altman’s departure announcement, Microsoft’s stock experienced a more than 1% drop in the last 30 minutes of trading. Microsoft was reportedly notified just “minutes” before the public announcement.
OpenAI, initially founded as a nonprofit in 2015, restructured in 2019 as a “capped-profit” company to raise capital, acknowledging the substantial costs associated with training advanced AI systems. Altman expressed hope for increased investment from Microsoft to cover forthcoming substantial model training expenses. Nadella later published a statement: “As you saw at Microsoft Ignite this week, we’re continuing to rapidly innovate for this era of AI, with over 100 announcements across the full tech stack from AI systems, models and tools in Azure, to Copilot.”
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“Most importantly, we’re committed to delivering all of this to our customers while building for the future. We have a long-term agreement with OpenAI with full access to everything we need to deliver on our innovation agenda and an exciting product roadmap; and remain committed to our partnership, and to Mira and the team. Together, we will continue to deliver the meaningful benefits of this technology to the world.”