In a shocking turn of events, Sam Altman has been fired as CEO of OpenAI after the board lost confidence in his ability to lead, according to an announcement issued on Friday.
OpenAI’s chief technology officer Mira Murati will serve as interim CEO, the company said, adding that it will conduct a formal search for a permanent CEO. Murati has been a part of the San Francisco-based company’s leadership for five years.
OpenAI board lost confidence in Altman
“Altman’s departure follows a deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities,” the company said in a blog post.
“The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.”
Posting on X shortly after the announcement of his sacking by the six-person board, Altman said: “I loved my time at OpenAI. It was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit. most of all i loved working with such talented people.”
i loved my time at openai. it was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit. most of all i loved working with such talented people.
will have more to say about what’s next later.
— Sam Altman (@sama) November 17, 2023
The dismissal of the 38-year old came as shock to the AI industry. Altman has become one of the most visible figures in the rapid rise of AI in recent years, a poster boy of the hugely popular generative AI technology, travelling the world to lobby governments.
After his company released the viral chatbot ChatGPT in November 2022, Altman gained the limelight as a vocal proponent of artificial intelligence, urging regulation and the responsible use of the technology. He testified before the US Congress about what AI legislation could look like.
Altman has spoken strongly about building artificial general intelligence (AGI), AI systems that are just as smart as humans. Last week, he delivered a keynote at the company’s first developers’ conference where he said that anyone can now create a customized version of ChatGPT without any coding skills.
On Thursday, he spoke at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in San Francisco, arguing that AI will be “the greatest leap forward of any of the big technological revolutions we’ve had so far”.
Altman helped found OpenAI in 2015 together with the likes of Elon Musk, Peter Thiel and LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman. The company started as a non-profit and received over $1 billion in investment pledges from the founders. They would only deliver $130 million by 2019 when the firm transformed into “capped profit” model with Altman as CEO.
Reactions to Altman’s departure
Microsoft has become a big investor in OpenAI, pumping in $10 billion into the startup earlier this year. The company has also integrated a lot of OpenAI’s technology into its operations and products like Bing AI Chat.
Company CEO Satya Nadella tweeted that Microsoft remains committed to working with OpenAI despite the latest change in guard.
“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 partnership, and to Mira and the team,” Nadella wrote.
As you saw at Microsoft Ignite this week, we're continuing to rapidly innovate for this era of AI, with over 100 announcements across the full tech stack – from AI systems, models, and tools in Azure, to Copilot. Most importantly, we're committed to delivering all of this to our…
— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) November 17, 2023
Much of AI Twitter is in a state of shock. “Sam Altman is a hero of mine,” said Eric Schmidt, former chairman and CEO of Google.
“He built a company from nothing to $90 billion in value, and changed our collective world forever. I can’t wait to see what he does next. I, and billions of people, will benefit from his future work- it’s going to be simply incredible. Thank you, Sam, for all you have done for all of us,” he added.
Head of the technology conference TED, Chris Anderson said: “I’m stunned by this. OpenAI firing Sam feels like Apple firing Steve Jobs. Who has the real story? Please, we need to know!”