In a dramatic turn of events on Friday night, former Y Combinator president Sam Altman was fired as CEO of AI startup OpenAI, the company behind viral AI hits like ChatGPT, GPT- 4 and DALL-E 3, by the OpenAI board of directors. Then the company’s former president and co-founder, Greg Brockman, resigned, as did three senior OpenAI researchers. And the consequences continue.
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It’s a rapidly evolving situation and we’re still trying to get to the bottom of it. No doubt more things will become clear as time goes on. However, to make it easier to follow everything that happened in the meantime, we’ve put together a timeline; We will do our best to keep you updated.
Timeline of Sam Altman’s dismissal from OpenAI
Ilya Sutskever schedules a call with Altman
According to a post on Brockman’s
Murati spoke about Altman’s dismissal
Brockman alleges that Mira Murati, OpenAI’s CTO and now interim CEO, was informed Thursday night that Altman would be fired.
Brockman says he received a text message from Sutskever shortly after noon Friday asking for a quick call. After sending a link to Google Meet, Brockman was told he would be removed from the board as chairman “but that he was vital to the company and would retain his role” as chairman, and that Altman had been fired.
Altman’s dismissal is publicly announced
OpenAI published a blog post announcing the executive restructuring. The company’s management team found out soon after.
OpenAI held a general meeting on Friday afternoon during which Sutskever defended Altman’s dismissal. He dismissed suggestions that ousting Altman amounted to a “hostile takeover” and said it was necessary to protect OpenAI’s mission to “make AI beneficial to humanity.”
Microsoft publishes a statement
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, a major OpenAI investor and partner, released a statement regarding Altman’s firing:
“As you saw at Microsoft Ignite this week, we continue to rapidly innovate for this era of AI, with more than 100 announcements across the technology spectrum, from AI systems, models, and tools in Azure to Copilot. Most importantly, we are 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 association, and to Mira and the team. Together, we will continue to bring the important benefits of this technology to the world.”
Brockman announced his resignation from OpenAI, citing “today’s news.” After sending a note internally, he posted the text on X.
Senior OpenAI researchers resign
Three senior OpenAI researchers resigned after Brockman, including research director Jakub Pachocki and head of preparation Aleksander Madry.
“No… in response to misconduct”
In an internal memo obtained by Axios sent Saturday morning, OpenAI COO Brad Lightcap said yesterday’s announcement “took [the management team] by surprise” and that management had had “multiple conversations with the board of directors to try to better understand the reasons and process behind their decision.” Discussions were ongoing as of Saturday morning, according to the memo.
“We can definitively say that the board’s decision was not made in response to misconduct or anything related to our financial, business, security or privacy practices,” Lightcap added. “This was a breakdown in communication between Sam and the board… We still share your concerns about how the process was handled, we are working to resolve the situation and will provide updates where possible.”
OpenAI funding in danger
OpenAI’s planned employee stock sale that would value the startup at around $86 billion could be in jeopardy. The Information, speaking with three sources who previously worked at the company, reports that they no longer expect the sale, led by Thrive Capital, to occur, or, if it does, to come at a lower valuation due to the recent turn of events.
Altman plans a new company
Altman has been telling investors that he plans to launch a new company, according to The Information. Brockman is expected to join the effort, whatever form he takes. (Possibly the start of an AI chip.)
Investors push for Altman’s return
Investors, furious at the turn of events, are reportedly putting pressure on OpenAI’s board of directors to reinstate Altman, going so far as to hire Microsoft. Nadella is said to be understanding.
The Board agrees to change course, in principle
The Verge reports that the board agreed in principle to resign and allow Altman and Brockman to return. However, yesterday he missed the deadline by which many OpenAI employees were required to leave the company. Altman is said to be ambivalent about coming back and calling for “significant” governance changes.
Altman to meet at OpenAI headquarters
According to The Information, Altman is expected to meet at OpenAI’s headquarters in San Francisco as OpenAI executives push to reinstate him as CEO. Brockman was invited to join, but it is unclear whether he will accept that invitation from executives.
Board negotiations hit a roadblock
Bloomberg reports that Lightcap and Murati, among others, are pressuring the board to reinstate Altman. But, as expected, the directors resist. As of noon Sunday, the board had not resigned out of concern about who might replace them, and they were vetting candidates. One possible new addition could be Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor.
Altman out, Shear in
Altman will not return as CEO, according to a report from The Information that cites an internal memo sent by Sutskever. As the search for a new permanent CEO continues, OpenAI named Emmett Shear, co-founder of video streaming site Twitch, as interim CEO, replacing Murati.
Altman joins Microsoft
Sam Altman, Greg Brockman and their colleagues announce that they will join Microsoft to lead a new AI research team. Nadella leaves the door open to other OpenAI staff members and says they will receive the resources they need if they decide to join.
Sutskever’s mea culpa
Sutskever publishes a post on X suggesting that he regrets his decision to remove Altman and will do everything in his power to reinstate Altman as CEO.
Employees threaten to resign
Nearly 500 of OpenAI’s roughly 770 employees, including, surprisingly, Sutskever, release a letter saying they could resign unless the startup’s board resigns and reappoints the ousted Altman. Later on Monday, that number increased to more than 650.
Altman and Brockman consider returning
As The Verge reported, Altman’s move to Microsoft is not a done deal, and both Altman and Brockman are still open to returning to OpenaI. That is, if the remaining board members who initially fired him step aside.