Sam Altman was in the middle of raising money for a new venture capital fund focusing on hard tech when he stepped down as CEO of OpenAI, according to a person familiar with the matter.
He was also in good spirits in recent days and attended an industry gathering on Wednesday evening, other people familiar with the matter said, indicating that he had no inkling that he would be pushed out of the firm he helped found.
In a blog post on Friday, OpenAI said its board of directors lost confidence in Altman’s leadership abilities after a “deliberative review process,” which “concluded that Altman was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.”
Altman’s business dealings have long been a subject of intrigue in Silicon Valley. In group chats and private conversations, founders and operators have questioned his network of investments and whether there were financial connections that weren’t publicly known.
It’s unclear whether these investments had anything to do with his ouster from OpenAI. An OpenAI spokeswoman declined to comment.
In a post on X, Altman said, “I loved my time at openai. it was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit. most of all i loved working with such talented people. will have more to say about what’s next later.”
Mira Murati, the company’s chief technology officer who joined the company in 2018, will serve as interim CEO, effective immediately. OpenAI’s board said she was “uniquely qualified” for the role given her “experience in AI governance and policy.” The company is planning to begin a formal search for a permanent CEO soon.
Greg Brockman, one of the co-founders of OpenAI, said Friday afternoon that he had decided to quit the company entirely after initially stepping down from his position as chairman of the board.
“i’m super proud of what we’ve all built together since starting in my apartment 8 years ago. we’ve been through tough & great times together, accomplishing so much despite all the reasons it should have been impossible,” Brockman wrote in a letter to employees shared on X. ”but based on today’s news, i quit.”
The remainder of the board includes OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, technology entrepreneur Tasha McCauley, and Helen Toner, director of strategy at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology. CSET has become a prominent think tank working on issues related to AI in Washington, DC in recent years.
Altman, unusually, didn’t have equity in OpenAI — much less the kind of control that founders like Mark Zuckerberg have — and so could be fired at any time, Semafor previously reported.
Microsoft, which has invested billions in OpenAI, was blindsided by Altman’s firing, Axios reported and Semafor confirmed. The software giant said it plans to continue working with the startup. “We have a long-term partnership with OpenAI and Microsoft remains committed to their team as we bring this next era of AI to our customers,” the company said in a statement.
OpenAI became a household name in 2022 when it released ChatGPT, a generative AI tool that now has more than 100 million users per week, the company announced recently.
Altman was at the center of OpenAI’s rise and traveled around the world earlier this year to meet with government officials and promote the company’s views on issues like regulation. He also dabbled in other projects, such as a cryptocurrency startup that scans people’s eyeballs in exchange for tokens.
He previously led the startup accelerator Y Combinator before leaving to focus on OpenAI as CEO three years ago. Altman was part of the original group of tech leaders that invested $1 billion to launch OpenAI in 2015, along with Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and others.
Three other people previously departed OpenAI’s board this year, including former Texas representative Will Hurd, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and Shivon Zilis, an executive at Elon Musk’s brain-computer interface startup Neuralink, Bloomberg reported.