Over the weekend, OpenAI, one of the most closely watched artificial intelligence (AI) companies behind the impressive ChatGPT, witnessed an unforeseen power struggle as its co-founder and now-former CEO, Sam Altman, was abruptly ousted by the board of directors.
The directors did not provide much details about why it forced out Altman, apart from saying he was not “consistently candid” in his talks with the board.
Altman, backed by numerous investors and employees, waged a campaign to overturn the decision, only to take an unexpected turn on November 20. Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), OpenAI’s largest investor, hired Altman to lead its new advanced AI research team.
Yet, the saga continued on the same day. Now, a co-founder and approximately 500 employees are threatening to quit the startup unless Altman is reinstated as OpenAI’s CEO.
Just hours after Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella announced that Altman would be joining the tech giant, OpenAI’s co-founder, two executives, and around 500 other employees signed a letter saying they would quit the startup.
Their condition for remaining was clear: Altman must be reinstated as CEO, and the current board must step down.
– the employees said in the letter.
“We, the undersigned, may choose to resign from OpenAI and join the newly announced Microsoft subsidiary run by Sam Altman and Greg Brockman. We will take this step imminently, unless all current board members resign … and reinstates Sam Altman and Greg Brockman.”
According to the Guardian, Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati, Chief Data Scientist and co-founder Ilya Sutskever, and Chief Operating Officer Brad Lightcap were among those who signed the letter.
Intriguingly, Ilya Sutskever is the same person who has initially been reported to have advocated for Altman’s ouster.
At the moment, OpenAI has just around 700 employees, meaning that more than 70% of its workforce is set to leave the company if Altman does not come back.
If that happens, it could pose a serious operational risk for one of the most prominent AI firms in the world. Currently valued between $80 billion and $90 billion, OpenAI disrupted the technology industry with its immensely successful chatbot, ChatGPT.