Nov 17 (Reuters) – The board of directors of the company behind ChatGPT on Friday evening fired OpenAI CEO Sam Altman – for many, the human face of generative AI – sending shockwaves through the technology industry.
OpenAI Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati will serve as interim CEO, the company said, adding that it would conduct a formal search for a permanent CEO.
The announcement blindsided many employees who discovered the abrupt management shakeup from an internal announcement and the company’s public blog.
“Altman’s departure follows a deliberative review process conducted by the Board of Directors, which concluded that he was not always candid in his communications with the Board of Directors, hindering his ability to exercise its responsibilities,” OpenAI said on the blog without further details.
Backed by billions of dollars from Microsoft (MSFT.O)OpenAI kicked off the generative AI craze last November when it launched its chatbot ChatGPT, which has become one of the fastest-growing software applications in the world.
Trained on reams of data, generative AI can create entirely new human-like content, helping users write essays, complete science homework, and even write entire novels. After ChatGPT launched, regulators scrambled to catch up: the European Union revised its AI law without a definition, and the United States launched AI regulation efforts.
Altman, who ran Y Combinator, is a serial entrepreneur and investor. He was the face of OpenAI and the wildly popular generative AI technology during his world tour this year.
Altmann posted on shortly after OpenAI published its blog: “I loved my time at openai. It was transformative for me personally, and hopefully for the world a bit. Above all, I loved working with such talented people. I will have more to say about the rest later.”.
Altman did not respond to requests for comment. OpenAI could not be reached for further comment.
Murati, who previously worked for Tesla, joined OpenAI in 2018 and later became the company’s chief technology officer. She oversaw product launches, including ChatGPT.
In an emergency meeting Friday afternoon after the announcement, Murati sought to calm employees and said OpenAI’s partnership with Microsoft was stable and that its backer’s executives, including the CEO Satya Nadella continued to express confidence in the startup, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The Information previously reported details of the meeting.
“Microsoft remains committed to Mira and her team as we bring this new era of AI to our customers,” a spokesperson for the software company told Reuters on Friday.
In a statement posted on Microsoft’s website, Nadella added: “We have a long-term agreement with OpenAI…Together we will continue to bring the significant benefits of this technology to the world.”
Supporters and critics piled into digital forums as the news spread.
On X, old Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google called Altman “my hero,” adding, “He built a company from nothing to $90 billion and changed our collective world forever.” I can’t wait to see what he does next. I and billions of people will. benefit from his future work – it’s going to be nothing short of incredible. »
“It’s a shock and Altman was a key ingredient in OpenAI’s recipe for success,” said Daniel Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities. “That said, we believe Microsoft and Nadella will exert more control over OpenAI with Altman gone.”
The full impact of the OpenAI surprise will be felt over time, but its fundraising prospects were an immediate concern. Altman was considered a fundraising master who successfully negotiated billions of dollars in investment from Microsoft and led the company’s takeover deals this year that pushed the OpenAI valuation from $29 billion to over $80 billion.
“In the short term, this will hurt OpenAI’s ability to raise more capital. In the medium term, it won’t be a problem,” said Thomas Hayes, president of hedge fund Great Hill Capital.
Other analysts said Altman’s departure, while disruptive, would not derail the popularity of generative AI, or OpenAI, or Microsoft’s competitive advantage.
“The innovation created by OpenAI is bigger than one or two people, and there is no reason to think that this would cause OpenAI to cede its leadership position,” said Gil Luria, an analyst at DA Davidson. “At least Microsoft’s significant participation and interest in OpenAI’s progress ensures that appropriate directional changes are implemented.”
Again Thursday evening, Altman showed no signs of concern at two public events. He joined his colleagues on a panel on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in San Francisco, outlining his commitment and vision for AI.
He later spoke at a Burning Man-related event in Oakland, California, engaging in an hour-long conversation on the topic of art and AI. Altman seemed relaxed and gave no indication that anything was wrong, but left just after his speech ended at 7:30 p.m.
The event organizer said at the event that Altman was scheduled to attend another meeting.
Reporting by Samrhitha Arunasalam in Bengaluru, Jeffrey Dastin and Anna Tong in San Francisco and Krystal Hu in New York; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Kenneth Li and Richard Chang
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