July 19, 2024

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OpenAI board stands firm in face of staff revolt over Sam Altman’s ouster

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The future of OpenAI remains uncertain after extraordinary efforts by employees and investors to oust the board failed to persuade its directors to resign and reinstate co-founder Sam Altman.

By the end of Monday, 747 out of 770 OpenAI employees had signed a letter threatening to quit and join Microsoft if the three directors holding out refused to resign and reverse their decision to sack Altman on Friday, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Meanwhile, venture capitalists backing the generative artificial intelligence start-up swung behind staff demands and were exploring legal measures to force the board to reverse course, according to multiple people with knowledge of their thinking. One person at a venture fund OpenAI said “legal action could come as soon as tomorrow”, without specifying what form that would take.

But the board remained resolute and prepared to test employees’ willingness to quit, according to a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations between staff and the board directors. In their letter, staff said the directors had “undermined our mission and company” in the way they fired Altman and stripped his co-founder Greg Brockman of his position on the board. Brockman subsequently quit the company.

Ilya Sutskever, the last remaining co-founder on the board and OpenAI’s chief scientist, signed the letter from staff after apologising on social media for his role in firing Altman, without saying he would quit the board. He had come under increasing pressure from staff to flip his position over the weekend, according to people familiar with the situation.

Altman’s sacking has plunged Silicon Valley’s most feted start-up into a profound crisis that has no obvious resolution. OpenAI has been at the forefront of a boom in artificial intelligence, which is regarded by many as the most…

2023-11-21 02:08:45

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