The face of the ChatGPT, the CEO of OpenAI & the chief evangelist officer of Generative AI got sacked by the board. Sam Altman joins the list of CEOs who got fired from their org. The list has names like Travis Kalanick of Uber, Adam Neuman of WeWork, Gini Rommety of IBM, and of course, who can forget what had happened to Steve Jobs. But Altman seemed to be doing well, right? He gave the world a product that shattered all the records of user acquisition, something that made people write “It’s the DAWN of AI”, “AI has ARRIVED”, and whatnot. How could anyone fire this CEO?
Not Candid With The Board
The news was shared with the public by publishing a blog on OpenAI’s website. They wrote “Mr. 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 board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.”
Who all sits on the OPEN AI board?
OpenAI’s board of directors consists of OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, independent directors Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, technology entrepreneur Tasha McCauley, and Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology’s Helen Toner.
The chairman of the Board wasn’t included in the decision. Worst, he too got sacked.
Greg Brockman, who was the chairman of the board wasn’t even invited to the board meeting and had no clue about Sam Altman getting fired. He was informed around the same time when the blog was published. He too got sacked as the chairman of the board. It was shared in the blog that as part of the transition, Brockman would be stepping down as the chairman, but he would continue as the president and would report to the CEO. Of course, this is insulting. And so, Brockman announced it on the Elon Musk-owned tweeting platform X that he would quit OpenAI.
Who is the new CEO of OpenAI?
The board said that the hunt for the new CEO is ON. But during the transition, CTO, Mira Murati will serve as the interim CEO. On one side, the board said they no longer have confidence in Altman’s ability to continue leading OpenAI, whilst they had all but praise for Mira. They said, “We have the utmost confidence in her ability to lead OpenAI during this transition period.”. Mira is the leader of OpenAI’s research, product, and safety functions.
The ripples across the tech industry
- Microsft which owns a 49% stake in OpenAI lost 1.68% in the stock market towards the end of the day. That’s about $40+ Billion. Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadela released a statement, where he reassured investors of the org’s bonding with OpenAI. The statement read, “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.”
- Greg Brockman announced on X “I quit”.
- Earlier in the day, Sam posted on X, acknowledging what had happened and expressing gratitude toward everyone. That post amassed 14Mn+ views at the time of writing this blog. He also did another post where it seems he is hinting that “It’s not over.” Many are writing posts on Twitter & LinkedIn as if it is the end of Altman, but he is barely 38. I guess, there is a long way to go.
i love you all.— Sam Altman (@sama) November 18, 2023
today was a weird experience in many ways. but one unexpected one is that it has been sorta like reading your own eulogy while you’re still alive. the outpouring of love is awesome.
one takeaway: go tell your friends how great you think they are.
- Brockman too did a long post on X, expressing his shock at the events. Especially how it was carried out. A sudden G-meet call, and boom “You’re fired.”
Sam and I are shocked and saddened by what the board did today.— Greg Brockman (@gdb) November 18, 2023
Let us first say thank you to all the incredible people who we have worked with at OpenAI, our customers, our investors, and all of those who have been reaching out.
We too are still trying to figure out exactly…
- Brian Chesky, co-founder & CEO of Airbnb, in a series of tweets, shared that he is saddened by what’s transpired. He said that Sam & Greg deserved better. He even re-tweeted a post by Ron Conway of svangels.com, where he called it a “board coup” akin to 1985’s Apple Board which ousted Steve Jobs.
Sam Altman and Greg Brockman have my full support. I’m saddened by what’s transpired. They, and the rest of the OpenAI team, deserve better— Brian Chesky (@bchesky) November 18, 2023
- Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, called Sam his “hero”. He reminded everyone that he built the company from zero, and took it to a valuation worth $80Billion, in just 7 years.
Sam Altman is a hero of mine. 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…— Eric Schmidt (@ericschmidt) November 17, 2023
- 3 other senior researchers at OpenAI resigned following this development. There isn’t much information about it but Ycombinator has a viral thread covering the news. Jakub Pachocki (director of research), Aleksander Madry (the guy who looked after the risks of AI), and Szymon Sidor (another researcher) quit their roles at OpenAI.
There is no going back it seems. Events at this scale are not done overnight. And there might be a lot of meat to the story than what meets the eye. Many rumors are doing the rounds, but I would refrain from adding to the frenzy. Sam Altman is too young to call this end. He might be just getting started. The new CEO (interim) is even younger.
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Cool. That’s all. Keep Rocking.