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More than 500 OpenAI Employees Threaten To Exit If Board didn't Resign

Key Takeaways
  • OpenAI faced unprecedented upheaval, with over 500 employees staging a revolt, demanding significant changes, including Altman's reinstatement.
  • The fallout from Altman's exit could lead to talent drain, jeopardize strategic focus, and erode investor trust.
  • The fallout from Altman's exit could lead to talent drain, jeopardize strategic focus, and erode investor trust.
21-Nov-2023 By: Sudeep Saxena
More than 500 OpenAI

500+ OpenAI Employees may join Microsoft if board doesn’t change

In an unprecedented move, more than 500 employees at OpenAI staged an open revolt, signing a letter that explicitly threatened to depart unless significant changes were made within the organization.

The ultimatum demanded the immediate resignation of the board and the reinstatement of Sam Altman as CEO, along with Greg Brockman, a former president and co-founder. Altman's abrupt dismissal by the board on Friday sparked the controversy that led to this ultimatum.

The letter, a scathing critique of the board's actions, accused them of jeopardizing the company's progress and mission. It expressed deep discontent, alleging that the board's handling of Altman's and Brockman's removal showcased a lack of competence in governing OpenAI.

The intensity of the discontent was highlighted by the surprising inclusion of Ilya Sutskever, the company's chief scientist and a board member, who was implicated in orchestrating Altman's ousting.

OpenAI's Leadership Turmoil Leads to Altman and Brockman's Move to Microsoft

Following investor discontent, including pressure from Microsoft, OpenAI's board initially considered Sam Altman's return as the company's leader. Altman himself hinted at a potential comeback, even sharing an image at OpenAI's headquarters. However, the board abruptly communicated to the staff that Altman would not be reinstated.

Shortly after this revelation, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that Altman and Greg Brockman would spearhead a newly established advanced AI research unit within the tech giant.

Nadella's announcement seemingly welcomed any OpenAI employees seeking a transition, assuring support for Altman's new subsidiary by stating Microsoft's commitment to swiftly providing necessary resources for their success.

Mira Murati, OpenAI's chief technology officer, stepped in as the interim CEO amidst the leadership uncertainties, marking a period of significant flux and transition within the company's top ranks.

OpenAI's Leadership Chaos and Staff Unity

In a swift and turbulent reshuffling, OpenAI's board opted to remove Mira Murati from her interim CEO role, appointing Emmett Shear, the former CEO of Twitch, to take her place. This rapid turnover in leadership marked another tumultuous chapter for the company.

Following the definitive news of Sam Altman's non-return to OpenAI, a sense of uncertainty enveloped the staff. Overnight, intense discussions ensued among employees concerning the course of action. Frustration simmered over the lack of transparent communication regarding Altman's dismissal.

In response to the organizational upheaval, OpenAI staff escalated their discontent in a letter, issuing a threat to join Altman at Microsoft. Citing assurances from Microsoft about available positions for all OpenAI employees at the new subsidiary

What impact may OpenAI face after Altman’s departure?

Altman's departure amidst controversies and subsequent uncertainties in leadership appointments may lead to instability. Rapid changes at the top can affect the company's strategic direction and decision-making processes.

The upheaval may strain employee morale due to the lack of transparency and sudden changes. While some might show unity and support, others could become disenchanted, affecting productivity and engagement.

The threat of a talent exodus, especially among those who closely align with Altman's vision, could impact the company's expertise and knowledge base. Departures might lead to a loss of key skills and intellectual capital.

Frequent leadership changes and internal turmoil might erode investor confidence, potentially impacting funding and future partnerships critical for growth and development.

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