What Is Going On with Sam Altman, OpenAI, and Microsoft?

OpenAI Sam Altman Microsoft
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OpenAI Sam Altman Microsoft
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Photo Credit: Jonathan Kemper

Over the weekend, OpenAI’s board of directors voted to oust CEO Sam Altman. He was quickly snapped up by Microsoft for its AI ventures—but that may not be the full story.

A letter signed by 505 of 700 OpenAI employees asks instead that the board of directors resign, while inviting Sam Altman and Co-Founder Greg Brockman to return. The Verge reports that the duo is willing to make that return—as long as the members who voted to oust him step aside.

The open letter was obtained by Wired this morning and features signatures of more than 500 current OpenAI employees that reads “Microsoft has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAI employees at this new subsidiary should we choose to join.” It asks for Altman and Brockman to be reinstated and then for the board itself to resign.

In a post this morning on Twitter, Sam Altman wrote “we have more unity and commitment and focus than ever before. we are all going to work together some way or other, and i’m so excited. one team, one mission.”

An apparent power struggle has surfaced inside of OpenAI and nearly all employees appear to be on Altman and Brockman’s side. The three-person board that opposes the two has conducted its own CEO search for the company. Reports indicate that employees refused to attend an emergency meeting on Sunday with CEO Emmett Shear. Employees have posted on social media to state they are keeping the lights on and maintaining service stability for OpenAI developers—but hope the board is pressured to resign.

OpenAI board holdouts who oppose the return of Sam Altman include:

  • Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo
  • Ex-GeoSim Systems CEO Tasha McCauley
  • Helen Toner, Director of Strategy at Georgetown’s Center for Security & Emerging Tech

It’s worth noting that despite announcing that he’s been hired, Sam Altman does not yet appear in Microsoft’s internal corporate directory. Altman has also posted that his and Satya Nadella’s priorities are to “ensure OpenAI continues to thrive” by “providing continuity of operations to our partners and customers.” Altman seems to suggest that if the ouster is complete and he’s severed from OpenAI—he’ll continue to create directly under the Microsoft umbrella rather than as a partner.