In a surprising development, Sam Altman has stepped down as CEO of OpenAI, as announced by the company on Friday.
According to the official blog post, Altman’s departure follows a thorough review process by the board, which determined that he lacked consistency in communication with the board, impeding their ability to fulfill their responsibilities. The board expressed a loss of confidence in Altman’s leadership capabilities, leading to his dismissal.
Effective immediately, Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati will assume the role of interim CEO, with the company initiating a search for a permanent successor. OpenAI’s communications department, when contacted by The Verge, refrained from providing additional comments beyond the blog post. Notably, employees at OpenAI were informed of the news concurrently with the public announcement, according to multiple sources.
In response to the development, Altman expressed gratitude for his time at OpenAI, describing it as transformative both personally and, hopefully, for the world. His sentiments were shared on X (formerly Twitter), where he likened the experience of his departure to “sorta like reading your own eulogy while you’re still alive.”
The announcement also revealed that co-founder and president Greg Brockman would step down as chairman of the board but would continue his association with the company. However, hours after the publication, Brockman announced on X that he had resigned, citing “today’s news” as the reason.
Further details unfolded as Brockman disclosed that he and Altman were notified of their removal from the board by OpenAI co-founder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, who also serves as a board member. In a post on X, Brockman expressed shock and sadness at the board’s decision.
The abrupt turn of events is notable, considering Altman’s prominent role as the face of OpenAI, leading the company’s recent DevDay conference and participating in conferences such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. Altman, a co-founder of OpenAI, has been instrumental in the company’s recent strides, including the widely acclaimed release of ChatGPT.
Despite the changes in leadership, Microsoft, a major investor in OpenAI, has affirmed its commitment to the partnership. Microsoft spokesperson Frank Shaw stated, ‘We have a long-term partnership with OpenAI, and Microsoft remains committed to Mira and their team as we bring this next era of AI to our customers.’ Similar sentiments were echoed by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on X.
Altman’s future endeavors have been a topic of speculation, with reports suggesting discussions with Jony Ive, Apple’s former chief design officer, about creating the “iPhone of artificial intelligence.” Altman, however, played down these rumors at a recent Wall Street Journal conference. Additionally, Altman is the largest shareholder in Humane, a company that recently launched orders for its Humane AI Pin.
As a co-founder of OpenAI, Altman has been an integral part of the company since its inception, initially serving as a co-chair alongside Elon Musk. Musk, who left in 2018 to avoid conflicts of interest with Tesla, has since founded his own AI company, xAI.
Unlike typical private company boards, OpenAI’s board primarily consists of external members. Following the departures of Altman and Brockman, the remaining board members include the company’s chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, Tasha McCauley (former CEO of GeoSim Systems), and Helen Toner (Director of Strategy at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology)