News that hundreds of OpenAI staff are threatening to leave in the wake of Sam Altman’s shock ouster from the ChatGPT maker marks the latest twist in a still-unfolding drama.
The soap opera began Friday when OpenAI fired Altman following a power struggle with the board, sending shock waves through Silicon Valley. Hours later, the company’s president, Greg Brockman, resigned. “Based on today’s news, I quit,” he said, in a tweeted statement. ?
On Friday, OpenAI appointed Chief Technology officer Mira Murati as interim CEO. Over the weekend there was speculation that Altman could return to OpenAI after he tweeted a picture of himself with a company guest pass Sunday. “First and last time I ever wear one of these,” he wrote.
But on Monday, Microsoft Corp.
“We’re extremely excited to share the news that Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, together with colleagues, will be joining Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team,” Nadella tweeted early Monday. “We look forward to moving quickly to provide them with the resources needed for their success.”
“The mission continues,” tweeted Altman, in response.
But by late Monday it was unclear if Altman would actually be joining Microsoft, as OpenAI investors were still working to bring him back, according to Bloomberg News, and Nadella said he would be open to Altman returning to OpenAI, as long as there were governance changes there.
“Irrespective of where Sam is, he’s working with Microsoft,” Nadella told Bloomberg TV.
On Monday former Twitch head Emmett Shear tweeted that he had accepted OpenAI’s offer to become the company’s interim CEO. “Today I got a call inviting me to consider a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to become the interim CEO of @OpenAI,” he wrote. “After consulting with my family and reflecting on it for just a few hours, I accepted.”
In his tweet, Shear also said he would hire an independent investigator “to dig into the entire process leading up to this point and generate a full report.”
Another twist in the drama came Monday morning with news of a letter to OpenAI’s board signed by more than 500 of the company’s employees, who have threatened to leave unless the board resigns and Altman and Brockman are reinstated, according to Wired. The company has about 770 workers, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The letter described the groundbreaking work undertaken by OpenAI. “The process through which you terminated Sam Altman and removed Greg Brockman from the board has jeopardized all of this work and undermined our mission and company,” the letter said. “Your conduct has made it clear you did not have the competence to oversee OpenAI.”
The employees said they “may choose to resign from OpenAI and join the newly announced Microsoft subsidiary run by Sam Altman and Greg Brockman.” They added that Microsoft Corp. has promised there are positions for all OpenAI employees at the new subsidiary, should they choose to join.
Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI’s chief scientist and co-founder, was one of the letter’s signatories. The Wall Street Journal reported that Sutskever is also a member of the company’s four-person board that voted to oust Altman. “I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI,” Sutskever tweeted early Monday. “I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company.”
OpenAI has not yet responded to a MarketWatch request for comment.
Microsoft, which announced a?new “multiyear, multibillion-dollar investment” in OpenAI earlier this year, is a key partner of the ChatGPT maker.
“We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners,” Microsoft’s Nadella said in a blog post Sunday. “We look forward to getting to know Emmett Shear and OAI’s new leadership team and working with them.”
Barbara Kollmeyer and Steve Goldstein contributed.