OpenAI board stands firm in face of staff revolt over Sam Altman’s ousting

openai over sam altman
Sam Altman’s sacking has plunged Silicon Valley’s most feted start-up into a profound crisis that has no obvious resolution © Carlos Barria/Reuters

The unprecedented efforts of workers and investors to remove the board had not succeeded in getting its directors to step down and allow co-founder Sam Altman to return, so the future of OpenAI remained unknown on Tuesday.

According to those with firsthand knowledge of the situation, by Monday night, 747 of the 770 workers at OpenAI had signed a letter threatening to leave and join Microsoft should the board refuse to step down and rescind their decision to fire Altman on Friday.

According to multiple persons with knowledge of their thinking, venture financiers supporting the generative artificial intelligence start-up were reportedly considering taking legal action to compel the board to change course.

Without elaborating, a representative of a venture fund invested in OpenAI stated that “legal action could come as soon as tomorrow.”

However, as of Monday night, the board was still adamant and ready to put workers to the test over their readiness to resign, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversations.

Staff claimed in a letter that the directors’ actions in dismissing Altman and removing his co-founder Greg Brockman from the board “undermined our mission and company.” After that, Brockman left the company.

The head scientist of OpenAI and the lone surviving co-founder on the board, Ilya Sutskever, signed the letter from the employees after taking to social media to express regret for his part in Altman’s termination. But he remained silent on whether he would leave the board himself.

People familiar with the matter said Sutskever had been under increasing pressure from personnel over the weekend to change his mind about Altman’s dismissal.

The most acclaimed start-up in Silicon Valley is now facing a historic crisis as a result of Altman’s dismissal. Leading the charge in the artificial intelligence revolution, which many consider to be the biggest technical advance since smartphones, is OpenAI.

Rival AI firms have benefited from the uncertainties around OpenAI’s future as a result of its highly successful ChatGPT chatbot launch last year.

Customers of OpenAI showed increased interest in companies like Anthropic and Cohere on Monday, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.

Additionally, rivals were reportedly “crawling all over” OpenAI employees in an attempt to hire outstanding researchers, according to a startup investor.

The CEO of software business Salesforce, Marc Benioff, requested that OpenAI researchers email him their resumes in a social media post on Monday, offering to equal the researchers’ salary.

The founder of AI start-up Inflection, Mustafa Suleyman, called the events at OpenAI “so sad,” but he also mentioned that his business was planning to grow. He exclaimed, “Join us as we run!”

Employees threatened to quit the company “imminently” in their letter if the board did not change its mind about firing Altman. On Sunday, Microsoft pledged to employ Brockman, Altman, and any other OpenAI employees who wished to join them at a new AI research division.

In addition to Sutskever, the other directors of OpenAI are technology entrepreneur Tasha McCauley, chief executive of Quora, Adam D’Angelo, and Helen Toner from Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology.

Emmett Shear, a co-founder of Twitch, the video streaming website, was named interim CEO by the board on Sunday night. He took over for Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati, who was elevated to the position on Friday. Vinod Khosla, an early OpenAI backer, had urged Shear to step down by Monday afternoon.

In TV interviews on Monday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said he could not predict who would lead the company on Tuesday morning. However, he pledged to support Altman regardless of whether he went back to OpenAI or worked for Microsoft internally.

The largest supporter of OpenAI, including hardware support and a number of investments, has been the software giant.

The 38-year-old businessman will be permitted to concentrate on his side ventures while employed at Microsoft, according to Nadella. According to persons with knowledge of the situation, Altman has attempted to launch a chip company, a nuclear fission endeavor, and a cryptocurrency initiative. Nadella stated, “We’ll work through the governance aspects of it.”

Mubadala Capital’s head of projects, Ibrahim Ajami, stated that the turmoil at OpenAI had highlighted the reason why “it’s very difficult to underwrite these companies today.” Mubadala Capital is a $284 billion sovereign wealth fund based in Abu Dhabi. Mubadala does not own any shares in OpenAI, although it does have a connection with Microsoft.

He declared, “As long-term investors, we would value companies on their long-term defensible moat, talent, deep partnerships, and customers.” “With OpenAI, where does that all stand right now?”

Read more at News Intercept:

ChatGPT-maker OpenAI fires CEO Sam Altman for lack of candor with company

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