Artificial intelligence Workplace

Altman Joins New Microsoft Venture; ​​Hundreds Of OpenAI Employees Threaten To Quit

Sam Altman

More than 600 OpenAI employees have signed a letter to the company’s board saying they will leave the generative AI startup unless the board resigns and brings back former CEO and co-founder Sam Altman and former President Greg Brockman.

The letter comes less than a day after efforts to bring Altman back to the company failed and it was announced both Altman and Brockman would join a new AI research venture at tech giant Microsoft.

“The leadership team suggested that the most stabilizing path forward — the one that would best serve our mission, company, stakeholders, employees and the public — would be for you to resign and put in place a qualified board that could lead the company forward in stability,” the letter reads.

“Leadership worked with you around the clock to find a mutually agreeable outcome. Yet within two days of your initial decision, you again replaced interim CEO Mira Murati against the best interests of the company. You also informed the leadership team that allowing the company to be destroyed ‘would be consistent with the mission.’”

The letter adds, “Microsoft has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAI employees at this new subsidiary should we choose to join.”

Among those who signed the letter was Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI’s chief scientist and a member of the board that voted to oust Altman.

Sutskever seemed to regret those actions Monday

“I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company,” Sutskever wrote on X.

Microsoft wins?

While Microsoft publicly stated its support for OpenAI this weekend as the company’s turmoil worsened, getting Altman and potentially all of OpenAI’s staff would be nothing less than a complete victory for the Redmond, Washington-based tech giant.

Although Microsoft is believed to have invested as much as $10 billion into OpenAI back in January, it has been creating its own AI tools as it battles with Google for dominance in the sector.

Microsoft shares saw a slight bump Monday as news of the ongoing situation continued to break.

How we got here

Altman’s dismissal broke late Friday. In a posting, the company said Altman’s departure comes after “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.”

The company immediately named Murati, the company’s chief technology officer, as its interim CEO. The company also announced Brockman would step down as chairman of the board, but remain with the company.

However, Brockman left the company later that night.

Murati and OpenAI leadership quickly went into damage control, trying to lure Altman and Brockman back over the weekend. However, those efforts proved to no avail and Murati was replaced Sunday with Emmett Shear, formerly CEO of Twitch.

Details of exactly what brought about Altman’s dismal are scarce. Axios reported Saturday Altman’s firing was not the result of “malfeasance or anything related to our financial, business, safety, or security/privacy practices” but rather a “breakdown in communications between Sam Altman and the board,” per an OpenAI internal memo.

Big dollars and big ideas

If OpenAI is gutted, it could be yet another blow to well-known VC firms in Silicon Valley.

In April, OpenAI held a $300 million tender offer with the likes of Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz at a valuation of around $29 billion.

Then just last month, a report in The Information said Thrive Capital will lead a deal to buy the OpenAI shares at a price that will value the artificial intelligence giant at at least $80 billion. That deal is not believed to have closed.

Other big-name investors in OpenAI include Founders Fund, Tiger Global Management and Khosla Ventures.

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Photo: TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco, via Wikimedia Commons.

Blogroll illustration: Dom Guzman

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