- Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, was suddenly fired on November 17th, 2023, sending shockwaves through the tech community and leading to resignations.
- The firing exposed tensions between OpenAI’s nonprofit and for-profit operations, with speculation Altman may start a new AI venture with resigned executives.
- Microsoft pushed for Altman’s return before the board named Twitch’s Emmett Shear as new CEO instead, leaving OpenAI to face challenges with its leadership team gone.
Sam Altman, the CEO and co-founder of OpenAI, was unexpectedly fired on November 17, 2023, a decision that stunned the tech community and led to several resignations and negotiations about his role. In effect, Worldcoin’s price plummeted.
Timeline of Events
The ousting of Altman came as a surprise even to OpenAI’s management team. The events unfolded rapidly, beginning on November 16 when OpenAI’s Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever scheduled a call with Altman for the next day. On November 17, OpenAI publicly announced Altman’s removal as CEO, citing a lack of transparency with the board, and named Chief Operating Officer Mira Murati as the interim CEO. In response, Microsoft, OpenAI’s largest investor, stated that the firing would not affect their partnership. However, OpenAI President Greg Brockman resigned in protest, and other executives followed his lead.
By November 18, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella intervened, urging OpenAI’s board to reconsider Altman’s dismissal. The board agreed to review the decision, and Altman visited the OpenAI headquarters on November 19 as discussions about his potential return continued. Yet, in a surprising twist, the board appointed Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear as the new CEO later that day, opting not to reinstate Altman.
Fallout and Speculation
The fallout from Altman’s firing revealed deep-seated internal tensions within OpenAI, particularly between its nonprofit and for-profit arms. There’s speculation that Altman might be planning a new AI venture with other resigned executives. Microsoft reportedly expressed anger over the decision and is considering seeking a board seat at OpenAI. Despite initial support for Altman’s return, Interim CEO Murati and other senior managers ultimately saw the board select Shear.
The tech industry is still grappling with the ramifications of this abrupt leadership shift at one of its foremost AI companies. With the departure of Altman and Brockman, OpenAI is now faced with significant challenges in maintaining its operations and external partnerships.