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OpenAI Leadership Shake-up Sparks Turmoil in Tech Community

CEO Sam Altman Abruptly Fired, Microsoft Urges Reinstatement

by Isaac lane
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In a surprising turn of events, OpenAI, the artificial intelligence startup, announced the sudden firing of CEO Sam Altman on November 17. The decision sent shockwaves through the tech world, prompting swift reactions from Altman’s colleagues and stakeholders.

Thursday, Nov. 16:

Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI’s chief scientist, reportedly scheduled a call with Altman, while CTO Mira Murati was informed of the impending firing.

Friday, Nov. 17:

Shortly after noon, Greg Brockman, then-OpenAI president, was notified of Altman’s removal from the board of directors but was to retain his role as president. OpenAI publicly cited Altman’s lack of consistent communication with the board as the reason for his termination. Microsoft, OpenAI’s major investor, issued a statement seeking to calm concerns about the impact on their partnership.

Saturday, Nov. 18:

Brockman resigned, triggering a wave of senior executive resignations. OpenAI’s COO, Brad Lightcap, revealed that the decision had caught the entire management by surprise, emphasizing it was not related to financial or safety issues. Altman was reported to be exploring a new AI-related venture.

Sunday, Nov. 19:

Reports emerged that Microsoft was “furious” about Altman’s ousting, pushing the board to reconsider his position. OpenAI’s board “in principle” agreed to bring back Altman and Brockman. Altman posted a photo from OpenAI’s headquarters ahead of the decision deadline. Sources suggested that an apology and a statement clearing Altman of wrongdoing might be necessary for his reinstatement.

Microsoft was reportedly eyeing a board seat or observer role without voting power if Altman returned. Key OpenAI executives, including interim CEO Mira Murati, Chief Strategy Officer Jason Kwon, and COO Brad Lightcap, were pushing for Altman’s return.

As the tech community awaits further developments, the incident has underscored tensions between the nonprofit and for-profit factions within OpenAI.

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