Sam Altman, the prominent CEO of OpenAI who became the face of the artificial intelligence boom in the tech industry, has been ousted from the company by its board of directors, OpenAI said in a blog entry Friday evening.
The move triggered a reorganization at OpenAI, an innovative artificial intelligence company and creator of the popular ChatGPT chatbot. Mira Murati, previously chief technology officer at OpenAI, was named interim chief executive, the company said. Hours later, Greg Brockman, the company’s president, said he was resigning.
“Sir. 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, which hindered his ability to exercise his responsibilities,” the company said. “The board is no longer confident in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.”
Leaving OpenAI is a surprising fall for Altman, 38, who over the past year had become one of the tech industry’s most prominent executives, as well as one of its most fascinating characters. Last fall, OpenAI launched an industry-wide AI frenzy when it launched ChatGPT.
It was not immediately clear what led to the board’s decision beyond what its statement said. Altman could not immediately be reached for comment. In a post on X, formerly Twitter, he wrote: “I loved my time at Openai. It was transformative for me personally and, hopefully, a little bit for the world. Most of all, I loved working with such talented people. I’ll have more to say about what comes next.”
In a post on X on Friday night, Brockman said he and Altman were not given any notice of the board’s decision. “Sam and I are shocked and saddened by what the board did today,” he wrote. “We, too, are still trying to figure out exactly what happened.”
Altman was asked to join a video conference meeting with the board at noon Friday and was immediately fired, according to Brockman. Mr. Brockman said that although he was the chairman of the board, he was not part of this board meeting.
He said the board informed him of Mr. Altman’s firing minutes later. Around the same time, the board published a blog post.
Altman, a longtime tech entrepreneur, helped found OpenAI with financial backing from Elon Musk in 2015. He led the small San Francisco company into unusual territory: a tech leader funded by billions of dollars from Microsoft and envied by Silicon Valley giants like Google. and Meta, Facebook’s parent company.
Altman also became a spokesperson for the tech industry’s shift toward AI, testifying before Congress and captivating lawmakers and regulators around the world. Many in the industry believe that AI is the biggest technological change in generations, and no one has done more to generate widespread enthusiasm for it than Altman.
On Thursday night, Altman appeared at an event in Oakland, California, where he spoke about the future of art and artists now that artificial intelligence can generate images, videos, sounds and other forms of art on its own. Without giving any indication that he would leave OpenAI, he repeatedly said that he and the company would continue to work alongside artists and help ensure his future was bright.
Earlier in the day, he appeared at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit in San Francisco with Laurene Powell Jobs, founder and president of Emerson Collective, and executives from Meta and Google.
Brockman, who helped found OpenAI along with Altman, said in a post on X that he was resigning. The company said earlier in the day that he would step down as chairman of the board but would remain as president, reporting to the chief executive.
Reached by phone, Brockman declined to comment. From the early days of OpenAI, he had been instrumental in shaping both its mission and its daily operations.
When OpenAI launched ChatGPT last November, the chatbot attracted hundreds of millions of users, surprising people with the way it answered questions, wrote poetry, and discussed almost any topic presented to it.
After the success of the chatbot, the broader tech industry adopted what is called generative artificial intelligence: technologies that can generate text, images and other media on their own. These technologies, the result of more than a decade of research within companies like OpenAI and Google, are poised to remake everything from email programs to Internet search engines to digital tutors.
OpenAI is in talks to close a new funding round that would value the company at more than $80 billion (nearly triple its valuation less than a year ago) and it’s unclear what Altman’s departure will mean for those talks. .
But his dismissal is a blow to Microsoft, which has invested $13 billion in OpenAI and has a 49 percent stake in the company. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella this year laid out an expansive plan to use the technology developed at OpenAI in nearly all of Microsoft’s products, from the Bing search engine to its widely used enterprise software. Altman joined him at a press event to announce the plans.
Microsoft said Friday afternoon that it planned to continue working closely with OpenAI. Mr. Nadella said in a statement that the company’s long-term agreement with OpenAI provided Microsoft “full access to everything we need to deliver on our innovation agenda and an exciting product roadmap.” He added that the company remained committed “to our partnership, and to Mira and the team.”
Microsoft’s share price fell more than 1 percent in the last 30 minutes of trading, after Altman’s departure was announced.
In a message to OpenAI employees seen by The New York Times, Murati said he had spoken with Nadella and Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Kevin Scott on Friday and that they remained supportive of OpenAI.
“We now find ourselves at a crucial juncture where our tools are being widely adopted, developers are actively building on top of our platforms, and policymakers are deliberating on the best ways to regulate these systems,” he wrote. “It is more important than ever that we stay focused, motivated and true to our core values.”
OpenAI’s four-member board of directors is a mix of respected AI researchers, technology executives, and AI policy experts, including Ilya Sutskever, the company’s chief scientist and co-founder, and Adam D’Angelo, the organization’s CEO. of questions and answers. Quora site. Board members could not immediately be reached for comment.
Current and former OpenAI employees were shocked by the news. On Friday morning they were talking about Mr. Altman as if he had a long future with the company. Researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors outside the company were equally surprised, with many rushing to determine why OpenAI’s board of directors had made that decision.
Jack Altman, one of Altman’s younger brothers and CEO of enterprise software startup Lattice, defended his brother in X.
“More importantly than being one of the most brilliant and impactful people our industry has ever had,” he wrote, “Sam is one of the most generous and thoughtful people I know. I have never met someone who has supported and encouraged more people around him than him. He couldn’t be a prouder brother.”