OpenAI says CEO Sam Altman has left after losing board’s confidence

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OpenAI co-founder Sam Altman has left the company abruptly after losing the confidence of the board, according to a statement on Friday from the Microsoft-backed artificial intelligence pioneer.

“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 board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI,” the statement said.

Altman will be replaced by Mira Murati, currently the company’s chief technology officer, who will serve as interim chief executive until a permanent replacement is named. He will also leave OpenAI’s board.

Altman’s exit from the company he co-founded and led 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 top venture capitalists. The company has been exploring an employee stock sale at an $86bn valuation.

At the company’s inaugural developer day in early November, Altman struck a triumphant tone as he rolled out a store for apps using its AI and announced its flagship ChatGPT product had reached 100mn 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.

Altman also spoke at length about generative AI at the Apec summit in San Francisco on Thursday, saying he was “super excited” about the future of the technology. When asked to predict what would be most surprising in the space this time next year, he said AI model capabilities would have taken “a leap forward that no one will have expected”.

Greg Brockman, one of Altman’s co-founders, would also be stepping down from his role as chair of the board, OpenAI said. He will remain at the company, reporting to the chief executive. 

In a statement on Friday, 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 the group’s chief scientist Ilya Sutskever; Quora chief executive Adam D’Angelo; technology entrepreneur Tasha McCauley; and Helen Toner from the Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology.

Additional reporting by Camilla Hodgson


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