In a stunning late day move Friday, OpenAI ousted high-profile CEO Sam Altman. And just hours after the announcement, the company’s president, Greg Brockman, resigned.
Within one year of its public release, OpenAI’s ChatGPT changed the face of generative AI and launched a global movement of business and consumer use of the emerging technology. It has grabbed headlines not only for its unprecedented possibilities, but also for its existential dangers.
Altman was the public face of the company, appearing before Congress earlier this year to discuss potential regulations and more. A slew of lawsuits and a panicked, worldwide effort to install regulatory guardrails followed. Altman will be replaced on an interim basis by CTO Mira Murati. The company also said Greg Brockman will step down as chairman of the board but will remain at the company, reporting to the CEO. But Brockman later took to twitter to announce his own resignation, writing, “based on today’s news, I quit.”
In a statement, the company said, “Mr. Altman’s departure follows a deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities. The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.”
In a statement on OpenAI’s blog, the board of directors said, “We are grateful for Sam’s many contributions to the founding and growth of OpenAI. At the same time, we believe new leadership is necessary as we move forward. As the leader of the company’s research, product, and safety functions, Mira is exceptionally qualified to step into the role of interim CEO. We have the utmost confidence in her ability to lead OpenAI during this transition period.”
OpenAI’s board of directors is made up of chief scientist Ilya Sutskever; independent directors Adam D’Angelo, CEO of Quora; technology entrepreneur Tasha McCaley; and Georgetown Center of Security and Emerging Technology’s Helen Toner.
Altman, 38, helped create OpenAI in 2015.
In a tweet posted Friday on X (formerly known as Twitter), Altman wrote, “I loved my time at openai (sic). It was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit. [M]ost of all [I] loved working with such talented people.” He added, “Will have more to say about what’s next later.”
The company most recently was in talks to sell employees’ shares to investors at a valuation of $86 billion.
In an email to InformationWeek, Forrester analyst Rowan Curran said OpenAI’s juggernaut ChatGPT bot will continue to thrive despite the big change. “Altman’s departure from OpenAI, while sudden, does not imply any issues with the underlying technology, models, or approach given the information we have today,” he said. “This seems to be a case of an executive transition that was about issues with the individual in question, and not with the underlying technology or business. While we do not know very much about the situation beyond what OpenAI has released at this point, the recent OpenAI Dev day as well as the Microsoft Ignite conference highlighted Microsoft’s confidence in the partnership with OpenAI and allude to this being about Altman, and not OpenAI.”
Curran commented further in a phone interview with InformationWeek regarding the escalating competition in the AI sector as more players enter the fray. “The generative AI world is very vibrant and active. Despite the fact that there are many voices in AI, there’s plenty of opportunity to be had in this space, whether that’s other companies or open-source models. OpenAI still has a very significant role to play in this space.”
This story is developing, and InformationWeek will update.
(Senior Editor Joao-Pierre S. Ruth contributed to this report).