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Somewhere around 500 to 600 of the startup’s estimated 770 employees reportedly signed a letter demanding the board of directors resign, get replaced by a new board, and reinstate Altman and Greg Brockman, another co-founder and president of OpenAI who quit after Altman’s ouster.
The hundreds of employees also warned they might follow Altman and Brockman to Microsoft, one of OpenAI’s investors that hired the pair to lead an in-house artificial intelligence research unit after their departure.
“Your actions have made it obvious that you are incapable of overseeing OpenAI,” said the letter to the board, which was posted by WIRED. “We are unable to work for or with people that lack competence, judgement and care for our mission and employees.”
One person who signed the letter was Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI’s chief scientist and a member of the company’s board.
“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 said in a post to X.
Altman had led OpenAI since 2019. He is widely considered a Silicon Valley powerhouse with experience serving as president of startup accelerator Y Combinator.
When the board fired Altman, its members gave little insight into the reasoning for his removal. It did claim Altman “was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.”
The board also said Mira Murati, the company’s chief technology officer, would serve as interim CEO. Then, in a twist, Murati worked to rehire Altman and Brockman — as OpenAI’s own investors pushed for Altman’s return — while the board members sought to hire their own CEO, according to Bloomberg.
first and last time i ever wear one of these pic.twitter.com/u3iKwyWj0a
— Sam Altman (@sama) November 19, 2023
On Sunday, Altman posted a photo of himself to X holding an OpenAI guest badge, stating, “first and last time i ever wear one of these.” But whatever effort there was to bring Altman back into OpenAI over the weekend appeared to hit a snag when the board picked former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear to lead the 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,” said the staff letter to the board. “Your conduct has made it clear you did not have the competence to oversee OpenAI.”