Ousted OpenAI CEO To Join Microsoft

Altman and Brockman to join Microsoft AI team after they were removed by the OpenAI board

Sam Altman speaks at Day 2 of TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco, 2019. Photo by TechCrunch, CC BY 2.0

By Josh Levin
Published November 18, 2023 | Updated May 13, 2024 at 11:03 am

Last Updated at 9:36 a.m. Nov. 20.

The board of directors of OpenAI, the Silicon Valley company behind ChatGPT, fired Founder and CEO Sam Altman Nov. 17.

“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 company stated. “The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.”

In a blog post, the company stated that the search for a new CEO is underway. Anonymous sources reportedly told The Verge and The New York Times that OpenAI was in talks with Altman to re-hire him as CEO. Altman posted an image of himself wearing a guest pass at OpenAI’s offices on X Nov. 19. “First and last time i ever wear one of these,” he wrote.

However, according to Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella, Altman and Brockman, along with other senior OpenAI employees who resigned due to the leadership change, “will be joining Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team,” he wrote in a post on X. “We look forward to moving quickly to provide them with the resources needed for their success.”

In their blog post, OpenAI announced that Greg Brockman, who co-founded OpenAI in 2015, would be stepping down as chairman of the board. In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Brockman wrote that OpenAI Chief Scientist and board member Ilya Sutskever told him he was being “removed from the board” in a last-minute meeting.

“Sam and I are shocked and saddened by what the board did today,” Brockman wrote. “Let us first say thank you to all the incredible people who we have worked with at OpenAI, our customers, our investors, and all of those who have been reaching out.”

In the same blog post, OpenAI stated that Brockman would remain in his role as president of the company, reporting to Interim CEO Mira Murati, OpenAI chief technology officer. However, shortly after the announcement, Brockman resigned from his role. “I’m super proud of what we’ve all built together since starting in my apartment 8 years ago,” he wrote in a message to the OpenAI team that he later shared on X. “But based on today’s news, I quit.”

Since OpenAI’s original blog post, the board has appointed former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear as interim CEO. “I took this job because I believe that OpenAI is one of the most important companies currently in existence. When the board shared the situation and asked me to take the role, I did not make the decision lightly,” he wrote. “Ultimately I felt that I had a duty to help if I could.”

Shear pledged to hire an independent investigator “to dig into the entire process leading up to this point and generate a full report,” he wrote. He also said he would “reform the management and leadership team in light of recent departures into an effective force to drive results for our customers.”

OpenAI has close ties to Microsoft, which invested $10 billion earlier this year, according to reports from The New York Times, in an effort “to accelerate AI breakthroughs to ensure these benefits are broadly shared with the world,” Microsoft stated. Though OpenAI is structured as a nonprofit, the organization also has a for-profit subsidiary, OpenAI Global, LLC. 

Because of this connection, Microsoft stock fell 1.4 percent following OpenAI’s announcement, from $372.90 per share to $367.64. Microsoft announced that they hired Altman and Brockman before the market opened Nov. 20. Their stock was up 1.8 percent from market close six minutes after markets opened. 

Microsoft declined The Terabyte Tribune’s request for comment. 

Despite their heavy investment, Microsoft does not have any seats on the OpenAI board of directors. The board comprises Sutskever, Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, technology entrepreneur Tasha McCauley and Helen Toner, of the Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology. Altman and Brockman were both members of the board until they were fired, according to OpenAI.

“It’s clear that the process and communications around Sam’s removal has been handled very badly, which has seriously damaged our trust,” Shear wrote. “Depending on the results everything we learn from these, I will drive changes in the organization — up to and including pushing strongly for significant governance changes if necessary.”

“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,” Sutskever wrote following Microsoft’s announcement Monday.

“I loved my time at OpenAI. It was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit,” Altman wrote. “Most of all, I loved working with such talented people.”

The Terabyte Tribune will continue to cover this story as it develops.

  • This story was updated at 11:50 p.m. to include the New York Times’ confirmation of The Verge’s report.
  • This story was updated at 6:10 p.m. Nov. 19 to include Altman’s post at OpenAI’s offices.
  • This story was updated at 9:00 a.m. Nov. 20 to include Microsoft’s announcement.
  • This story was updated at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 20 to include Shear’s hiring as interim CEO.
  • This story was updated at 9:36 a.m. Nov. 20 to include Microsoft’s stock price at market open.
  • CORRECTION: Altman does not hold any shares in OpenAI.
Josh Levin is the founder and editor in chief of The Terabyte Tribune, handling all aspects of operations and coverage. He can be reached via email at [email protected]