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Most of OpenAI’s staff threatens to quit unless the board resigns and reinstates Sam Altman as CEO

The OpenAI chaos took another twist on Monday morning as most of the company’s staff threatened to quit unless the board resigns and reinstates former CEO Sam Altman and ex-president Greg Brockman. According to Wired and Kara Swisher, around 500 employees — including several executives — signed the letter.

Swisher noted that OpenAI has 700 employees. Several of them, including Chief Technical Officer Mira Murati (who held the company’s top job on an interim basis for less than a weekend), wrote on X early Monday that “OpenAI is nothing without its people.”

The letter to the board is the latest development in a series of events that started on Friday afternoon, when OpenAI’s board fired Altman. The board claimed Altman had not been “consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.” As such, the board felt it no longer had “confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.” Brockman told OpenAI staff in an email on Friday that he was resigning as chairman “based on today’s news.”

Chief Operating Officer Brad Lightcap later said in a leaked internal memo that Altman was sacked due to “a breakdown in communication,” not “malfeasance or anything related to our financial, business, safety, or security/privacy practices.”

Altman and Brockman held crunch talks with OpenAI’s board over the weekend in an attempt to get their jobs back. But those discussions did not work out in the favor of the former CEO and chairman. It emerged late Sunday night that the board had instead opted to hire former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear as OpenAI’s interim chief executive.

There was yet another major development late Sunday/early Monday morning, as Microsoft hired Altman, Brockman and several of their former OpenAI colleagues to head up a new advanced AI research team. Microsoft is OpenAI’s biggest investor and it’s using the company’s tech to help power its generative AI-driven products such as Copilot. The news of Altman’s firing reportedly caught Microsoft by surprise. Even though there were suggestions that Satya Nadella has effectively acquihired OpenAI for free, the Microsoft CEO said his company remains “committed to our partnership with OpenAI.”

Given that Altman, Brockman and others now have new positions at Microsoft, that somewhat complicates the OpenAI staff’s demand for the company to rehire its former leaders. In their letter, the employees accused the board of acting against the best interests of OpenAI.

“Your actions have made it obvious that you are incapable of overseeing OpenAI. We are unable to work for or with people that lack competence, judgement and care for our mission and employees,” the letter reads. “We, the undersigned, may choose to resign from OpenAI and join the newly announced Microsoft subsidiary run by Sam Altman and Greg Brockman. Microsoft has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAI employees at this new subsidiary should we choose to join. We will take this step imminently, unless all current board members resign, and the board appoints two new lead independent directors, such as Bret Taylor and Will Hurd, and reinstates Sam Altman and Greg Brockman.”

Ilya Sutskever, an OpenAI board member and the company’s chief scientist, was reportedly the person who coordinated the coup against Altman. However, Sutskever has now expressed regret for “my participation in the board’s action” and pledged to do “do everything I can to reunite the company.” Sutskever is one of the letter’s several hundred signees.

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