About 700 employees of OpenAI, the company that operates the ChatGPT artificial intelligence system, signed one letter open addressed to the company’s board of directors in which they threaten to resign and join Microsoft if Sam Altman is not recalled as CEO: Altman was removed from his position last Friday completely unexpectedly and with little of clear motivation, and in the meantime Microsoft announced that it had hired him to lead an artificial intelligence research team.
The letter was signed by almost all of the company’s employees, numbering 770. The letter also calls for the resignation of all members of the board of directors.
In the letter, the employees state that they intend to join the artificial intelligence research unit in which Microsoft placed Altman itself, and specify that Microsoft would be available to hire them. Microsoft also said that Greg Brockman, another OpenAI executive fired on Friday, would also be added to Altman’s team.
Microsoft owns 49% of OpenAI’s shares and, with $13 billion, is by far its largest investor. After the letter was published, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said he was willing to accept Altman returning to OpenAI, with which Microsoft has a very close relationship anyway. Even the cloud computing company Selling power said it was ready to hire resigning employees.
Nadella also said he thinks the OpenAI company structure should change, whether Altman stays at Microsoft or returns to his old role. OpenAI is made up of a commercial company, led until Friday by Altman and founded in 2018: it is however controlled by a non-profit company, managed by the board of directors and founded in 2015. The decision to fire Altman was taken by the board of directors of the non-profit company: it responds only in a limited way to the requests of shareholders, who interact instead with the commercial company.
Also among the signatories of the letter is Ilya Sutskever, one of the co-founders of OpenAI along with Altman, Brockman and Elon Musk. Sutskever appeared to be a major supporter of Altman’s firing, but he wrote in a Monday Tweeter that he “deeply regrets” having participated in the choices of the board of directors and that he intends to commit to restoring the unity of the company. By signing the letter, Sutskever requested his own resignation from the board.
I deeply regret my participation in the actions of the board of directors. It was never my intention to harm OpenAI. I love everything we have built together and will do everything in my power to bring the company together.
– Ilya Sutskever (@ilyasut) November 20, 2023
The reasons for Altman’s dismissal have not yet been fully clarified. The board’s initial assertions cited a lack of transparency on Altman’s part, which prevented the board from adequately overseeing the company. According to certain sources, officially denied, the dismissal would also be due to differences between the board of directors and Altman on the speed with which to develop, disseminate and commercialize artificial intelligence systems: the board of directors would have had a more cautious, while Altman seemed interested in leveraging as much as possible the high visibility OpenAI gained last year to attract new investment and expand.
Sam Altman is one of the most notable figures in the world of artificial intelligence. Its removal left many observers perplexed and also worried OpenAI investors due to the lack of transparency with which it occurred. Until Sunday, some OpenAI executives, including Mira Murati, named interim CEO on Friday, had tried to negotiate Altman’s return, notably due to pressure from investors, but these negotiations failed: the next morning, Microsoft announced the hiring of Altman, and OpenAI replacing him. by Murati with Emmett Shear, former executive of the streaming platform Twitch.