The OpenAI employees said in the letter that the board’s ousting of Altman shows a lack of competence to manage the firm and help it achieve its goal of becoming the leading global artificial intelligence company.
In a dramatic turn of events, hundreds of OpenAI employees, including high-ranking executives, are on the brink of leaving the company unless the current board resigns and reinstates Sam Altman as the company’s CEO. On November 20, Altman and Greg Brockman, co-founder and former president of OpenAI, joined Microsoft to lead its new AI venture, with the company’s CEO Satya Nadella announcing that there is more room for disgruntled OpenAI staff in the firm.
Shortly after, at approximately 5:10 pm ET on Monday, 95% of OpenAI’s employees, about 734 individuals out of the 770 total employees at the company, signed a letter threatening to follow Altman and Brockman to Microsoft if the board fails to step down and bring back the duo to resume their positions in the firm.
OpenAI’s Board Lacks Competence to Lead the Company
According to reports, former interim CEO Mira Murati and OpenAI COO Brad Lightcap are among the senior executives leading the charge against the board.
Interestingly, the letter’s signatories include co-founder and board member Ilya Sutskever, who, in a surprising twist, expressed regret for his involvement in the board’s actions against Altman in a post on X (formerly Twitter).
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.
— Ilya Sutskever (@ilyasut) November 20, 2023
The OpenAI employees said in the letter that the board’s ousting of Altman shows a lack of competence to lead OpenAI and help it achieve its goal of becoming the leading global artificial intelligence company.
“The process through which you terminated Sam Altman and removed Greg Brockman from the board has jeopardized all of this work and undermined our mission and company. Your conduct has made it clear you did not have the competence to oversee OpenAI,” the letter reads.
The letter not only calls for the resignation of the current board members, including Ilya Sutskever, Adam D’Angelo, Helen Toner, and Tasha McCauley but also requests the appointment of two new independent lead board members, Bret Taylor and Will Hurd.
OpenAI Reshuffles Leadership
The ongoing crisis at OpenAI started last Friday when Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman were ousted by OpenAI’s board, citing unspecified communication issues.
The board said he “was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.” The move, however, triggered a strong backlash from employees and investors, including Microsoft, Thrive Capital, and Sequoia.
Despite attempts to negotiate Altman’s return over the weekend, the talks failed, leading to Altman and Brockman announcing joining Microsoft in a new, largely independent venture.
With the departure of two top executives, OpenAI reshuffled its leadership, appointing Emmett Shear, the former Twitch CEO, as interim CEO. The company initially appointed Mira Murati to replace Altman on Friday after he left the company.
Microsoft’s Nadella said, while welcoming the new OpenAI CEO that the company looks forward to working with the new leadership.
“We look forward to getting to know Emmett Shear and OAI’s new leadership team and working with them,” Nadella said.
Despite not being on the board of directors at OpenAI, Microsoft owns a reputable stake, 50% of OpenAI shares.