OpenAI Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and co-founder Sam Altman has left the company abruptly after losing the confidence of the board, according to a statement released on Friday by the Microsoft-backed artificial intelligence company.
“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,” the statement reads in part.
The board then passed a vote of no confidence derailing Altman’s ability to continue leading OpenAI
Altman took it to his X handle to indicate his departure, “I loved my time at OpenAI. It was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit.”
“Will have more to say about what’s next later,” he added.
Another OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman said Friday evening that he too was resigning from the company.
Just a few hours earlier, OpenAI’s board had said Brockman would be vacating his position as chair and instated in a position that requires him to report to the company CEO.
Altman will be replaced by Mira Murati, the company’s chief technology officer, who will serve as interim CEO until a permanent replacement is named.
The respective exits of Altman and Brockman leave Ilya Sutskever, who is also the group’s chief scientist, as the sole OpenAI founder remaining on the company’s board.
Altman’s exit sent shockwaves through Silicon Valley on Friday.
The 38-year-old has become the public face of the boom in generative AI, following the launch of OpenAI’s hugely popular chatbot ChatGPT a year ago.
He has been the most prominent executive in the fast-growing sector and the de facto ambassador for Silicon Valley in its efforts to persuade governments around the world that the pursuit of highly-sophisticated AI could be managed safely.
OpenAI has drawn billions of dollars of investment from strategic partners, most notably Microsoft and prominent venture funds including Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz and Josh Kushner’s Thrive Capital, which has been preparing to lead a purchase of up to $1bn in employee stock in a deal valuing OpenAI at $86bn, according to reports.
But a number of OpenAI’s investors, including senior figures at Microsoft, appeared to have been caught off guard by Friday’s announcement, “Even close, close friends have no idea what happened,” said one Altman’s friends.
It is not clear whether the employee stock sale will be affected by Altman’s departure.
At the company’s inaugural developer day earlier this month, Altman struck a triumphant tone as he rolled out a store for apps using its AI and announced its flagship ChatGPT product had reached 100million users.
Altman welcomed Satya Nadella as a special guest at the event, asking the Microsoft chief executive how he felt about the future of their relationship. “We love you guys,” Nadella responded. Microsoft shares fell about 2 per cent following the announcement of Altman’s departure.
Nadella said in a statement on Friday, “We have a long-term agreement with OpenAI with full access to everything we need to deliver on our innovation agenda and an exciting product roadmap, we remain committed to our partnership, and to Mira and the team. Together, we will continue to deliver the meaningful benefits of this technology to the world.”
OpenAI’s board of directors said it was grateful for Altman’s contributions in growing the company but added “we believe new leadership is necessary as we move forward”.
OpenAI’s board of directors include Sutskever; Quora chief executive Adam D’Angelo; technology entrepreneur Tasha McCauley; and Helen Toner from the Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology.