Unraveling Turmoil: A Timeline of Sam Altman’s Departure from OpenAI

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In a startling sequence of events, Sam Altman, the former president of Y Combinator and CEO of OpenAI, was fired by the company’s board, leading to a series of resignations and internal upheaval. The situation has rapidly evolved, involving key figures, internal disputes, and external pressures. This timeline aims to capture the unfolding drama surrounding Altman’s departure and its aftermath.

Key Points:

November 16:

  • Ilya Sutskever, chief scientist and co-founder, schedules a call with Altman.
  • Mira Murati, CTO and interim CEO, allegedly informed of Altman’s impending firing.

November 17:

  • Greg Brockman, longtime president and co-founder, is demoted from the board but retains his role as president.
  • Altman’s firing is publicly announced, prompting an all-hands meeting defending the decision.
  • Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, issues a statement expressing commitment to OpenAI.
  • Brockman resigns, followed by the resignation of three senior OpenAI researchers.

November 18:

  • COO Brad Lightcap states in an internal memo that Altman’s firing was not in response to malfeasance.
  • The planned sale of OpenAI employee shares, valuing the startup at $86 billion, is in jeopardy.
  • Altman plans a new venture; investors push for his reinstatement.

November 19:

  • Altman expected to meet at OpenAI HQ; negotiations hit a snag with the board.
  • Altman ruled out as the permanent CEO; Emmett Shear appointed interim CEO.
  • Altman, Brockman, and colleagues announce joining Microsoft to lead a new AI research team.

November 20:

  • Sutskever expresses regret over Altman’s removal, vowing to reinstate him.
  • Nearly 500 OpenAI employees publish a letter threatening to quit unless the board resigns.
  • Altman and Brockman consider returning to OpenAI; board contemplates a merger with Anthropic.

Summary: The saga at OpenAI, marked by Altman’s abrupt firing, resignations, internal discord, and external pressures, has culminated in the appointment of a new interim CEO. The aftermath sees the potential departure of a significant number of employees and ongoing negotiations about the future leadership of the company. The evolving situation underscores the challenges faced by organizations at the intersection of artificial intelligence, corporate governance, and stakeholder dynamics.


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