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OpenAI fires CEO Sam Altman, Microsoft seizes power

PLUS: Was Altman fired or rehired?


Do you hear that sucking sound? I think someone left the power vacuum on.

Good morning, human brains. There was major drama in the tech world over the weekend after OpenAI fired its CEO, Sam Altman, leading to a very public power struggle and rapid rebalancing of the major players.

Not up to speed? Buckle up 💺

By the end of this article, you’ll know all the key players, their motivations, and what’s most likely going to happen next.


OpenAI fired Sam Altman and Microsoft swooped in to seize control.

The Key Players

Sam Altman - OpenAI CEO up until Friday, Sam was behind the rapid growth of OpenAI and the commercialization of products like ChatGPT and DALL•E.

Ilya Sutskever - Head of Research at OpenAI and a member of the OpenAI board.

Satya Nadella - CEO of Microsoft which is a major investor in OpenAI and uses their technology to power Bing’s AI chatbot.

Greg Brockman - President and Co-Founder of OpenAI. Very direct involvement in the development of key technologies.

The Key Moments

2015 - OpenAI is founded by Elon Musk and Sam Altman as a non-profit dedicated to developing AI safely for the benefit of humankind. Ilya Sutskever and Greg Brockman join as co-founders. Fundraising goal: $1 billion.

2019 - Approximately $900 million short of their fundraising goal, OpenAI (the non-profit) decided to start a for-profit business and make the money themselves. Microsoft invests $1 billion dollars.

2022 - OpenAI launches ChatGPT, one of the fastest-growing consumer products of all time.

Jan 2023 - Microsoft invests another $10 billion dollars as OpenAI technology becomes crucial to their AI strategic plans, powering the “new Bing” and other services.

March-June, 2023 - Three members of the OpenAI board resign, taking the total number of board seats down from 9 to 6. This creates a power vacuum.

October 2023 - OpenAI makes changes to its “Core Values” to emphasize its “AGI focus.”

November 6th, 2023 - OpenAI DevDay introduces GPTs (no-code chatbots), GPT-4 Turbo, and the Assistants API.

Friday, November 17th, 2023 - OpenAI fires its CEO, Sam Altman. Chief Technology Officer, Mira Murati, is the appointed interim CEO. Greg Brockman immediately resigns as well. Investors and customers are panicked.

Sunday, November 19th, 2023 - Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella brokers negotiations between Sam Altman and the OpenAI board.

12:00AM PT, Monday, November 20th, 2023 - Sam Altman and Greg Brockman are hired by Microsoft.

Ooooh boy. But why did they do it? Here’s what we know…


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How it all played out in real time. 🎭

It all began on Friday with a blog post from OpenAI announcing a “leadership transition”. Read: “CEO Sam Altman canned”.

What kind of company fires its CEO after he launches one of the most successful products in history?

You have to understand the history of OpenAI. Their primary mission is to further AI safety, not make a profit. In fact, the private company part of OpenAI is capped to a 100x profit.

If the non-profit board that controls OpenAI decided Sam Altman was endangering that mission, that could be reason enough to replace him.

In the announcement the OpenAI’s board claims it lost confidence in Sam Altman after a “deliberative review process” which concluded that he was not “consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.”

How did the peeps at OpenAI take it?

Not well.

Just hours after Sam Altman was canned, Greg Brockman quit. He was OpenAI’s President.

Prior to his resignation, the board stated that Brockman would remain the President, but would be “stepping down as chairman of the board.”

Are Altman and Brockman forming their own company?

Hold on, the saga continues. They released a joint statement providing more details leading up to both of their departures.

They mentioned the board broke the news in a sudden Google Meet.

Google Meet? Doesn’t Microsoft own 49% of OpenAI?

They didn’t use Microsoft Teams, but that’s not the point.

Here is Altman and Brockman’s statement:

So that’s it?

Not even close.

A memo sent to OpenAI staff indicates a strong desire to reverse the decision and bring back Altman, as well as other key employees who resigned in protest.

Jason Kwon, OpenAI’s Chief Strategy Officer, wrote the memo and stated that he is “optimistic” Sam Altman will return.

Many OpenAI employees retweeted Altman’s post about loving OpenAI to show their support to bring him back.

Notably, one of the OpenAI executives who retweeted Altman’s message was Mira Murati, the appointed interim CEO.

So he’s coming back?

Yes, they made him wear a guest badge.

Altman was open to returning but insisted on the removal of current board members. The board has not officially resigned yet.

Holy moly, this is like a soap opera.

Yes, and get this.

Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella mediated the negotiations between OpenAI and Sam Altman. While Altman is interested in returning, he is also considering starting a new company.

Microsoft is getting more involved?

Oh yeah, about that. Satya Nadella tweeted that Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, with others from OpenAI, will lead an AI research team at Microsoft.

So Sam and Greg are at Microsoft?

That’s what they said. Not only that, but hundreds of OpenAI employees announced they were resigning as a result of this.

Here’s the mass resignation letter:

One of the most notable people on the list is Ilya Sutskever. He was instrumental in the board’s decision to fire Sam Altman.

He responded to this in a tweet.

So, what happens now?

Microsoft essentially holds all of the keys to power. They now directly employ two of the key players and anyone who defects from OpenAI to work for Sam and Greg will become employees of Microsoft as well.

They also remain the largest investor and customer of OpenAI. This could lead to a complete re-org of OpenAI and will at the least lead to a new board and new leadership being instated.

This is a developing story which we will continue to update throughout the week.

Wow. I need a coffee break.




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Jason Kwon, OpenAI’s Chief Strategy Officer, tweets the moment that took the AI community by storm.

Tag us on Twitter @BotEatBrain for a chance to be featured here tomorrow.


Until next time 🤖😋🧠

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