A few more updates about OpenAI.
As hundreds of employees threaten to quit unless Sam Altman’s firing is rolled back:
The Information reports that before interim CEO Emmett Shear took the job, OpenAI’s remaining board members offered it to two others: former GitHub CEO Nat Friedman and Scale AI CEO Alex Wang. Both turned it down. (Update: And in another report, it says board members also pursued the CEO of its competitor Anthropic, Dario Amodei, and proposed a merger between the two companies.)
From Business Insider there’s a report Ilya Sutskever gave employees two explanations for Altman’s firing: that he gave two people the same project and that he allegedly gave two board members different opinions about a member of personnel.
Finally, the Wall Street Journal writes that Sutskever, one of the board members who voted to fire Altman, switched to asking for Altman’s return “after an emotionally charged conversation with Anna Brockman, Greg Brockman’s wife” and notes he officiated their civil ceremony at OpenAI’s offices in 2019.
Is Sam Altman joining Microsoft? Satya Nadella doesn’t seem to know
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on stage at OpenAI’s first developer conference.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced late last night that former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman were both joining Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team, an announcement that sent Microsoft’s stock price soaring. Now, less than 24 hours later, following The Verge reporting that Sam Altman is still trying to return as OpenAI CEO, Nadella doesn’t seem so sure.
“[We’re] committed to OpenAI and Sam, irrespective of what configuration,” said Nadella in an interview with CNBC’s Jon Fortt, adding that Microsoft “chose to explicitly partner with OpenAI [and] obviously that depends on the people at OpenAI staying there or coming to Microsoft, so I’m open to both options.” Nadella added that “obviously we want Sam and Greg to have a fantastic home if they’re not going to be [at] OpenAI, with all the colleagues at Microsoft, but I’m exactly where I was on Friday morning.”
Of course there’s a rationalist Harry Potter fanfic angle to the OpenAI drama.
No, really: this does not surprise me at all! Unlike 404’s Jason Koebler, I did in fact read early parts of blogger and AI “doomer” Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality — it was known in nerd/fan circles, not just the effective altruist movement, and at least initially was built around the pretty funny conceit of “applying cold hyperlogic to the quirks of a children’s fantasy series.” I did not get nearly far enough to reach the namecheck of Emmett Shear, OpenAI’s new CEO.
Sam Altman isn’t showing up in Microsoft’s corporate directory yet.
Microsoft employees are waking up to the surprise news of former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman joining them as a colleague. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says Altman is joining to lead a new advanced AI research team, but he’s not yet showing up in Microsoft’s corporate directory according to multiple sources. He’s still marked as an OpenAI guest. Once he’s fully onboarded Altman will have a CEO title inside Microsoft and could be set to hire hundreds of OpenAI employees who have threatened to resign.
📩 Do you know more about Microsoft’s plans for its new AI research team? You can reach me confidentially on the Signal messaging app: +442081230413, or through email ([email protected]).
Hundreds of OpenAI employees threaten to resign and join Microsoft
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella onstage at Ignite 2023 in November.
Most of the staff at OpenAI have threatened to resign from the company and join Microsoft, which has hired ousted OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and former OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman to lead a new “advanced AI research team.” In a letter to OpenAI’s board that was reported on this morning by Wired and journalist Kara Swisher, more than 500 current OpenAI staffers say that “Microsoft has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAI employees at this new subsidiary should we choose to join.”
The letter says the OpenAI employees will leave if the board does not reinstate Altman and Brockman and then resign. But seeing as the board has already made its choice, deciding to remain in place and naming a new CEO, while Altman and Brockman head to Microsoft, it seems that Microsoft may have just found Altman’s first several hundred employees, assuming they’re correct about the company’s promise to hire them all.
We’re all trying to find the guy who did this.
OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, who reportedly led the push to fire Sam Altman, which kicked off an entire weekend of shenanigans including three CEOs in three days and Altman joining OpenAI financial backer Microsoft, has regrets. In a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, he writes:
I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company.
Moments after Sutskever’s post, newly-minted Microsoft exec Sam Altman quoted the post with a heart.
OpenAI employees are openly criticizing the company’s leadership.
OpenAI’s workforce is voicing complaints on X (formerly Twitter) following the ousting of former CEO Sam Altman and the confirmation on Sunday that he wouldn’t be re-instated.
“Every single person whose ever told me to trust them on blind faith has been a liar,” said OpenAI technical staff member Brydon Eastman in a now-deleted post. “A chief scientist should [k]now this better than anyone.”
Tensions are running high among the remaining OpenAI employees.
Image: X / Shengiia Zhao
Sam Altman has a CEO title inside Microsoft.
That’s a big deal in itself. Microsoft typically uses the CEO title for the leaders of big divisions like Microsoft Gaming, or acquired companies like LinkedIn and GitHub. Altman as the CEO of a new advanced AI research team signals to me that Microsoft is treating this like a big acquisition, which makes sense when you consider that a number of OpenAI employees are joining Altman at Microsoft.
OpenAI’s new CEO is Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear
Emmett Shear at TED 2019.
Photo by Lawrence Sumulong / Getty Images
OpenAI has a third CEO in three days: Emmett Shear. After a shock firing of former CEO Sam Altman on Friday, Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear is officially taking over as interim CEO of OpenAI. The Information first revealed Shear’s appointment on Sunday night. The official announcement comes just an hour after Microsoft confirmed it had hired Sam Altman and OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman to form a new advanced AI research team.
“Today I got a call inviting me to consider a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to become the interim CEO of OpenAI,” says Shear in a post on X (formerly Twitter). “After consulting with my family and reflecting on it for just a few hours, I accepted.”
Microsoft hires former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman
Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
Microsoft is hiring former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman.
Altman was fired from OpenAI on Friday after the board said it “no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.” After a weekend of negotiations to potentially bring Altman back to OpenAI, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that both Altman and Brockman will be joining to lead Microsoft’s new advanced AI research team. Altman will have the CEO title of this new group.
Sam Altman isn’t coming back to OpenAI
Sam Altman at OpenAI’s first conference on November 6th.
Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
After a weekend of negotiations to potentially bring back Sam Altman as OpenAI CEO following his shock firing, the company’s nonprofit board has gone another way entirely and named former Twitch CEO and co-founder Emmett Shear as interim CEO, according to a person familiar with the matter. He will take over as CEO for Mira Murati, who was publicly aligned with Altman.
That’s three CEOs in three days, if you’re keeping track.
The deal to bring Sam Altman back to OpenAI appears to be going sideways.
Bloomberg is now reporting that interim CEO Mira Murati is trying to re-hire Altman and former president Greg Brockman in some sort of role, all while the board is trying to replace her as CEO. It is a mess — and keep in mind that the clock is ticking for Microsoft, which definitely wants to have a clear and convincing statement for its shareholders when the markets open tomorrow morning. Vibe check: bad.
Even as Murati works to bring Altman and Brockman back, members of the OpenAI board are also seeking to hire their own CEO to succeed Altman, a person with direct knowledge of the search said. Picking a different CEO would come as a stinging rebuke to investors, led by Microsoft Corp. and Thrive Capital, who have urged the board to step down and want Altman reinstated.
The OpenAI negotiations are being fueled by boba tea and McDonalds.
The NYT has been updating its piece on the OpenAI negotiations all day — the paper of record has a reporter staked out in front of the building, so we know what delivery is being ordered. It is very funny that a bunch of people concerned with existential AI risk are ordering McDs!
As deliberations continued on Sunday, executives at OpenAI called in resources. At 12:45 p.m., a deliveryman with a dozen drinks from the Boba Guys chain showed up on a motorbike outside with two bags. Another deliveryman followed later with a half dozen more drinks.
At 6:15 p.m., a food delivery driver pulled up at the rear entrance and jumped out with four bags from McDonald’s. Two employees from OpenAI loaded them on carts and wheeled them inside for what looked to be a long night.
It’s the endgame for Sam Altman’s potential return to OpenAI.
Sam Altman is back in the building at OpenAI for the final stretch of negotiations for his potential return as CEO after being unceremoniously fired by the four-member board on Friday. A source close to Altman says he has once again set a 5PM PT deadline to resolve the situation, as he did yesterday — that big show of heart emoji support last night was meant to demonstrate how many people would leave for a new company with him.
One big condition of Altman’s return is that the existing board (who fired him!) has to step down. The existing board has to make some hard decisions about who will replace them, which appears to be the sticking point. Microsoft’s Satya Nadella is reportedly mediating the discussion between Altman, former OpenAI president Greg Brockman, and the four current board members as they attempt to select a new board. We’re also told Microsoft would very much like to wrap this up before the stock market opens tomorrow morning. (Microsoft declined to comment; OpenAI’s communications team isn’t returning calls.)
Today’s 5PM deadline is meant to be a hard deadline, per the source close to Altman. If a deal isn’t reached, things will take “a different path,” we’re told, and extend through tomorrow and perhaps much longer.
Updates to come!
Why OpenAI employees were posting all those heart emojis.
Saturday evening, hours after we broke the news that Altman was being asked to return to OpenAI by the board that fired him, he posted the following on X: “i love the openai team so much.”
Then, a lot of OpenAI employees started reposting him with the heart emoji. I’ve been told by multiple sources that the action was meant to signal to the board who would leave OpenAI to follow Altman to a new company. “A very large portion of people were there because of Greg [Brockman, the now-resigned president] and Sam,” one source says.
About that new venture.
Former (and future?) OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has been pitching custom, Nvidia-rivaling AI Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) chips, according to a report in The New York Times. He’s reportedly also sought funding from Masayoshi Son, SoftBank’s founder, for his rumored Jony Ive AI hardware collaboration.
Today, Bloomberg reported that the TPU project is code-named “Tigris,” and that “a number of prominent venture firms,” including Microsoft, are ready to or interested in backing Altman’s future projects.
Where we are with the Sam Altman saga.
It has been a whirlwind couple of days. If you’re catching up, here’s a summary of the ongoing crisis at OpenAI:
• The company published a blog post Friday afternoon announcing that it had fired Altman as CEO and that board chair Greg Brockman was stepping down. The board said Altman hadn’t been candidly communicating with them.
• CTO Mira Murati was named interim CEO.
• Brockman later said “I quit.”
• Altman and Brockman posted a joint statement saying they were “shocked and saddened” by the board’s actions.
• Three high-level researchers reportedly quit in protest: Jakob Pachocki, Aleksander Madry, and Szymon Sidor.
• Sources said that Ilya Sutskever, Open AI’s chief scientist, was instrumental in Altman’s firing.
• Yesterday, sources told The Verge that OpenAI was trying to get Altman back as CEO.
• Altman has conditions, including that the board members who fired him quit. The board has been waffling and negotiations pushed past a key 5PM PT deadline on Saturday.
• The Verge heard there would be mass resignations if no deal was reached by 5PM PT. A deal didn’t happen, and the talks are continuing today.
• OpenAI is “optimistic” it can get Altman back. A memo to staff last night said an update is expected this morning.
The OpenAI drama will drag on until Sunday.
We’d heard there was a threat of mass resignations at 5PM PT. Then OpenAI employees began mass-quote-tweeting Sam Altman saying he loved them with heart emojis, leading everyone to assume he indeed was coming back as CEO. But it’s still not a done deal, and we still don’t know exactly what all that meant. What we do know is that talks appear to be done for today, so we’re going to bed, Las Vegas Grand Prix be damned. We’ll try this all again tomorrow.
The OpenAI board is waffling on resigning, and that might push Sam Altman to start a new company after all.
Big update to our scoop from earlier: a key 5PM PT deadline for the OpenAI board to strike a deal to resign and Sam Altman to return has passed, and mass resignations at OpenAI may come soon, unless this thing gets done.
More on the pressure for OpenAI’s board to restore Sam Altman as CEO.
Along with the news from Alex Heath and Nilay Patel that OpenAI’s board is in discussions with just-fired CEO Sam Altman about his return, now Bloomberg reports that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella “has been in touch with Altman and pledged to support him in whatever steps he takes next.”
The Wall Street Journal writes that Microsoft (the nonprofit’s primary financial backer) and Thrive Capital (its second-largest shareholder) are “ helping orchestrate the efforts” to restore Altman.
And according to this report by Forbes, the plan some investors are considering is to make the board consider the situation “untenable through a combination of mass revolt by senior researchers, withheld cloud computing credits from Microsoft, and a potential lawsuit from investors.”
OpenAI board in discussions with Sam Altman to return as CEO
Sam Altman speaking on behalf of OpenAI at the APEC CEO Summit the day before he was fired.
Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
The OpenAI board is in discussions with Sam Altman to return to the company as its CEO, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. One of them said Altman, who was suddenly fired by the board on Friday with no notice, is “ambivalent” about coming back and would want significant governance changes.
Update November 18th, 5:35PM PT: A source close to Altman says the board had agreed in principle to resign and to allow Altman and Greg Brockman to return but has since waffled — missing a key 5PM PT deadline by which many OpenAI staffers were set to resign. If Altman decides to leave and start a new company, those staffers would assuredly go with him.
Sam Altman says he has a new venture in mind.
The Information reported today that, fresh off being forced out of OpenAI, Sam Altman is spreading the word among investors that he has a new project in the works, possibly with the company’s former president, Greg Brockman.
Not long ago, rumors said Altman and Jony Ive would partner on an “iPhone of Artificial Intelligence” project, but later he said whatever ideas he has are “very nascent.”
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