OpenAI’s Sam Altman Wants Board To ‘Go After His Shares’ If He ‘Goes Off’
OpenAI’s Sam Altman Wants Board To ‘Go After His Shares’ If He ‘Goes Off’
Jul 13, 2024 6:47 PM

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In a surprising twist of events that no one could have seen coming, OpenAI's founder and CEO Sam Altman was removed from his role by a board decision less than a day back. Altman's removal created shockwaves in the media, and soon after his departure, OpenAI's president and co-founder Greck Brockman also left his role and now fresh details of what took place behind the scenes are starting to emerge.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that OpenAI's research lead, Ilya Sutskever, played a key role in the management shakeup at one of the world's preeminent artificial intelligence firms. OpenAI singlehandedly pushed AI to the front of media and stock market attention this year, and Altman's departure also sent Microsoft's shares tumbling down a couple of days after the firm had revealed its own set of artificial intelligence products.

OpenAI's Lead Of Research Illya Sutskever Plays Crucial Role In Ousting Sam Altman

Within hours after OpenAI's blog post announcing Altman's removal, the firm's co-founder and president Greg Brockman created even more shockwaves as he announced that he was also leaving the company after its decision to fire Altman. Brockman shared the details in a X post through an email that he sent to OpenAI employees.

After learning today’s news, this is the message I sent to the OpenAI team: https://t.co/NMnG16yFmm pic.twitter.com/8x39P0ejOM

— Greg Brockman (@gdb) November 18, 2023

Now, it appears that OpenAI's head of research, Ilya Sutskever, has played a crucial role in ousting Altman. Journalists from The Verge first reported whispers of his involvement, and now fresh statements from Brockman confirm that he was involved.

According to the former OpenAI executive, Altman got a text message from Sutskever asking him to join an OpenAI board meeting at noon Friday. When he joined, the board informed him of the decision. After Altman's removal, Brockman was next on Sutskever's radar, as he messaged him soon after noon to request a similar meeting. This meeting had the same outcome, but while Altman's employment was terminated, Brockman was simply demoted as Sutskever determined that he was 'vital' to OpenAI's future.

A slide from OpenAI's Dev Day showing some use cases for its products.

While Sutskever is yet to publicly comment on the coup at OpenAI, a previous tweet that he made on X might indicate some of his motivations. In a late September post, he stated that "Ego is the enemy of growth," hinting that perhaps there was friction within OpenAI about changes or upgrades to the product. To lend credence to this fact is the tone of the blog post announcing Altman's dismissal, which was candid to mention that "he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board."

After Brockman's reveal, Altman also took to X (formerly Twitter) once again to share his feelings. The former OpenAI boss described the events of being suddenly let go as "weird," as he outlined:

i love you all.

today was a weird experience in many ways. but one unexpected one is that it has been sorta like reading your own eulogy while you’re still alive. the outpouring of love is awesome. one takeaway:

go tell your friends how great you think they are.

Altman's feelings about the shocking developments are rather clear as he further added that if he started to act out against OpenAI's decision, then the company should go after him for the full value of his stock.

As to what caused the rift between Altman and his board, there is some speculation that OpenAI's decision to drive for profit while being a non-profit at the same time created friction. The firm was in the news in 2019 when its former employees parted ways and formed Anthropic. This happened after Microsoft's billion dollar investment in OpenAI, after which the firm also announced its decision to license its technologies commercially.

OpenAI Global LLC is the company that runs and operates ChatGPT. Its sole shareholder is OpenAI, Inc. which is a nonprofit. As a result, the LLC has to be aligned with OpenAI, Inc., despite the fact that a nonprofit in effect owns a for profit entity and raises capital to let the LLC generate profits.

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