OpenAI Employees Threaten to Quit En Masse, Demanding Board Resignation and Reinstatement of Sam Altman

Many employees at OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, said in a letter released Monday that they'll leave unless the board of directors of the company resigns. Sam Altman speaks during the OpenAI DevDay event on November 06, 2023 in San Francisco, CaliforniaJUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES

Around 500 Employees, Including Senior Executives, Sign Letter Amidst Company Turmoil

In a stunning turn of events at OpenAI, the maker of the popular AI tool ChatGPT, around 500 employees have signed a letter threatening to leave the company unless the entire board of directors resigns. This mass revolt follows the abrupt departure of co-founder Sam Altman and the controversial appointment of ex-Twitch boss Emmett Shear as interim CEO.

Internal Turmoil and Leadership Shuffle

The internal strife at OpenAI became public when Reuters and several other media outlets reported on a letter signed by numerous employees, including high-profile executives like chief technology officer Mira Murati and chief operating officer Brad Lightcap. The letter starkly criticizes the board’s actions: “Your actions have made it obvious that you are incapable of overseeing OpenAI. We are unable to work for or with people that lack competence, judgement and care for our mission and employees.”

The crisis deepened when Microsoft, a key investor in OpenAI, announced the hiring of Altman along with other prominent figures from the AI firm. Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, expressed his excitement on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter: “We’re extremely excited to share the news that Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, together with colleagues, will be joining Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team.”

The Board’s Controversial Decision

OpenAI’s board, including chief scientist and board member Ilya Sutskever, faced backlash after Altman was removed for reportedly being “not consistently candid in his communications” with the board. Sutskever later expressed regret over his involvement in the board’s decision, stating on X: “I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI.”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, right, speaks as Sam Altman, left, looks on during the OpenAI DevDay event in San Francisco on Nov. 6, 2023.Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

A New Chapter at Microsoft

Altman and Brockman’s move to Microsoft marks a significant shift in the AI landscape. Nadella’s announcement suggests a new direction for AI research under Microsoft’s umbrella, potentially leaving OpenAI in a vulnerable position.

Employees’ Ultimatum and OpenAI’s Future

The employees’ letter, as reported by various sources including Wired and CNBC, makes a bold ultimatum: either the board resigns, or they will join Altman at Microsoft, which has assured positions for them. This dramatic step underscores the depth of the internal conflict and the employees’ commitment to their leaders and the company’s original mission.