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OpenAI has faced a growing revolt among employees and investors after a boardroom coup ousted chief executive Sam Altman from the world’s leading artificial intelligence company, calling for the resignation of three directors.
In a letter to the board, employees said the directors “undermined our mission and the company” by firing Altman and his co-founder Greg Brockman. About 700 of OpenAI’s 770 employees had signed the letter as of Monday afternoon, according to employees posted on the social networking site X. OpenAI did not respond to confirm the count.
The debacle marks a stunning reversal for the group, which brought generative AI into the mainstream nearly a year ago with the launch of its ChatGPT chatbot. Until last week, OpenAI was seen as a global leader in developing and commercializing the technology, attracting billions of dollars in investment and empowering businesses worldwide. Now, its very future is in question.
After stalled talks to rehire Altman on Sunday, in which the board demanded his resignation as the price of his return, OpenAI’s team replaced Emmett Shear, co-founder of video streaming service Twitch, as interim CEO. Microsoft, the software company that is OpenAI’s largest investor, announced that it has appointed Altman and Brockman to head the new AI division.
Altman said on Monday that he expects OpenAI to endure and that he will work with Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella to secure the start-up’s future.
“[W]e We are committed to providing full continuity of operations to our partners and customers [and] The Openai/microsoft partnership makes this very doable,” Altman posted on X. It’s “one team, one mission,” the 38-year-old entrepreneur said.
In an interview with Bloomberg on Monday, Nadella could not say who will be OpenAI’s CEO on Tuesday, but said he would leave the decision “up to OpenAI and its team.”
Altman will be able to continue his side projects while working at Microsoft, he said. Altman has a nuclear fission venture and a cryptocurrency project, and has sought to launch a device company and chip business, according to people with knowledge of the matter. “We will work through the governance aspects of it,” Nadella said.
The hundreds of OpenAI employees who signed the letter on Monday said the positions at Microsoft have been offered in the new division and that “we will take this action immediately until all current board members resign and the board appoints two new lead independent directors.”
Altman and Brockman were fired by four other members of the board on Friday. On Monday, one of those board members, Ilya Sutzkever, joined the staff.
Sutzkever, OpenAI’s chief scientist, signed a letter from staff after initially apologizing On social media For his role in getting Altman fired.
“I deeply regret my participation in the board’s proceedings,” he wrote in X. I love everything we’ve built together and will do everything I can to reunite the company.
Other remaining directors are Adam D’Angelo, chief executive of Quora; tech entrepreneur Tasha McCauley; and Helen Donner from the Center for Conservation and Emerging Technologies.
Some of OpenAI’s top venture capitalists were hopeful that Altman would return. The company’s team made a “serious miscalculation,” early OpenAI supporter Vinod Khosla wrote in a scathing editorial in The Information on Monday. Khosla later called for Shear’s resignation.
“Every problem has a solution,” Thrive Capital founder Josh Kushner wrote in X. Thrive has been lined up as the lead buyer in a $1bn sale of OpenAI employee shares to investors, which was expected to close. coming weeks. That sale, an opportunity for employees to cash in on OpenAI’s success, is expected to value the company at $86 billion, people familiar with the plans said.
The stock’s sell-off is now balanced, with the weekend’s drama marking a major change in circumstances, but Altman’s return could see further upside, said a person familiar with the situation.
Meanwhile competitors seek to take advantage of the chaos within the company. In a social media post on Monday, Marc Benioff, CEO of software giant Salesforce, asked OpenAI researchers to send their CVs and offered to match their salaries.
The exact reason for Altman’s ouster is unclear, with OpenAI’s board saying only that he was not “consistently honest.” “The board reached a point where they couldn’t believe what Sam was saying,” said a person with direct knowledge of the board’s decision.
Scheer, who has publicly called for a slower rollout of AI, tried to quell reports that the controversy over security was part of the argument. “The board did not fire Sam because of a specific disagreement over security.” He wrote in X. “I’m not crazy enough to take this job without the support of a team to commercialize our amazing models.”
Scheer wrote that he would hire an independent investigator to report on “the entire process leading up to this point” and could push for “significant management changes if necessary.”
Nadella said his company is committed to the partnership with OpenAI and looks forward to working with Shear and its new leadership team.
Microsoft has committed more than $10bn in capital and infrastructure credits to OpenAI – but not all of that capital has sunk in – and has embedded OpenAI’s powerful generative AI tools into its own software.
Altman told the Financial Times this month that he plans to raise more investment from the Seattle group, which he says is a “great partner” in Microsoft.
Microsoft shares rose 2.1 percent to end Monday at a record high, reversing losses from late Friday following Altman’s firing.