by Jeffrey Dastin, Anna Tong, Samrhitha A and Krystal Hu
(Reuters) – Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, the artificial intelligence (AI) start-up behind the chatbot ChatGPT, was abruptly fired on Friday to everyone’s surprise in the small world of Californian tech.
OpenAI CTO Mira Murati will serve as interim CEO, the company said, adding that it would begin efforts to find a new CEO.
“(Sam) Altman’s departure comes after a review by the board of directors, which concluded that (Sam Altman) had not always been candid in his communications with the board, which hindered his ability to perform its responsibilities,” OpenAI wrote in a post on the company’s blog, without providing further details.
The co-founder and president of OpenAI, Greg Brockman, immediately announced his resignation in a message published on the social network X, formerly Twitter. “In view of this evening’s announcement, I am resigning,” he wrote.
These two departures surprised many OpenAI employees who learned the news in an internal message. Greg Brockman himself admitted to having been informed only a few minutes before the official announcement.
“We are both trying to understand exactly what happened,” he said on X (formerly Twitter).
The now-reduced-to-four-person board includes three independent directors, who hold no stake in OpenAI, and computer scientist Ilya Sutskever, the company’s “chief scientist.”
Backed by Microsoft with billions of dollars, OpenAI sparked a media frenzy a year ago with the launch of ChatGPT, its conversational robot based on generative artificial intelligence.
The possibilities offered by this tool and others of the same type capable of creating content comparable to human productions (texts, images, videos, etc.) have led governments to hastily review their regulatory tools.
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Sam Altman, who has become the face of this new phenomenon of generative AI, reacted to his dismissal on X by saying: “I loved my time at OpenAI. It was transformative for me personally, and I hope for the world a little too. Above all, I loved working with so many talented people. I’ll say more later about what’s next.”
Mira Murati, who worked for electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla, joined OpenAI in 2018. She oversaw the launch of several products including ChatGPT.
During a meeting called urgently after the announcement of Altman’s dismissal, she tried to reassure the company’s employees by declaring that the partnership with Microsoft was not in question and that the management of the giant technology company, including its chief executive Satya Nadella, continued to have full confidence in the startup, a source told Reuters.
This brutal reshuffle is not the first in the young history of OpenAi, launched in 2015, of which Tesla boss Elon Musk was vice-president for a while. In 2020, executives from the company slammed the door to found Anthropic, a competing company, claiming to take greater account of security issues linked to AI.
The implications, particularly financial, of the departure of Sam Altman, a past master in the negotiations which contributed to increasing the company’s valuation from 29 to more than 80 billion dollars (73.3 billion euros) in one year, remain to be determined.
“It’s a shock and Altman was a key part of OpenAI’s recipe for success,” commented Daniel Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities. “That being said, we are confident that Microsoft and Nadella will exercise greater control over OpenAI now that Altman is gone.”
“The innovation created by OpenAI is bigger than one or two people, and there is no reason to think that OpenAI will cede its leadership position,” said another analyst, Gil Luria, of the company. DA Davidson portfolio management.
(Reporting Samrhitha Arunasalam in Bangalore, Jeffrey Dastin and Anna Tong in San Francisco, and Krystal Hu in New York; Camille Raynaud and Jean-Stéphane Brosse)
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