There’s something rotten in the state of California, specifically tech haven San Francisco… OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has been unceremoniously fired from the company he founded only to apparently be hired by Microsoft merely days after. Not even Kris Jenner could move that fast…
i loved my time at openai. it was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit. most of all i loved working with such talented people.
will have more to say about what’s next later.
— Sam Altman (@sama) November 17, 2023
But the backstory: only days ago, Sam Altman found himself on the chopping block of the company he founded when “the board” expressed concerns over his transparency with his communications. Stepping into the interim CEO role was Mira Murati, OpenAI’s Chief Technology Officer, while the company embarked on a search for a permanent successor.
In a company blog post, they wrote that “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.”
The news of Altman’s firing was as much a surprise to OpenAI employees as it was to the public, learning about it only after the official announcement. Altman’s own reflections on his departure were tinged with irony, likening it to “reading your own eulogy while still alive.”
But this set off a domino-like sequence of internal drama with Greg Brockman, co-founder of OpenAI, resigning from his position as chair of the board, although he also opted to remain with the company. His resignation, announced just hours after Altman’s firing, added to the whirlwind of changes. Staff at the company soon began threatening to leave en masse unless Altman be reinstated.
— Kara Swisher (@karaswisher) November 20, 2023
Like all good dramas though, the corporate carousel didn’t stop there. By Monday, Microsoft, OpenAI’s biggest backer, swooped in to appoint both Altman and Brockman to lead their new advanced AI team. This move, announced by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, was a swift and strategic play by the tech giant.
To tie it all up neatly with more of a band-aid than an actual bow, OpenAI named Emmett Shear, the co-founder of Twitch, as its third CEO in a mere three days. This rapid succession of leadership changes seemed almost scripted for its sheer speed and unexpectedness.
We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners. We look forward to getting to know Emmett…
— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) November 20, 2023
As recently as Monday, Nadella has hinted at a possible return for Altman to OpenAI or a continued role at Microsoft. He stressed the need for a reshaping of OpenAI’s governance, perhaps the only predictable element in a saga clearly being directed by some serious backroom agreements.
Who needs Succession when we have this?