Hundreds of OpenAI's employees have threatened to quit the AI startup and join former boss Sam Altman at Microsoft unless the board resigns, according to a letter seen by Reuters.
Around 700 members of OpenAI staff said they would resign, a source told Reuters.
The board of the company behind the ubiquitous generative AI platform, ChatGPT, fired Altman last Friday, November 17, sending shock waves through the tech industry.
"Altman's departure follows a deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities," OpenAI said in a blog post.
Emmett Shear, the former head of streaming website Twitch, has been appointed Interim CEO.
Greg Brockman, OpenAI president and co-founder, who stepped down from the board as chairman as part of the management shuffle, quit the company, he announced on messaging platform X late on Friday. "Based on today's news, I quit," he wrote.
The departures blindsided many employees who discovered the abrupt management change from an internal message and the company's public facing blog. It came as a surprise to Altman and Brockman as well, who learned the board's decision within minutes of the announcement, Brockman said.
Altman’s ousting came as such a surprise that, even up until Monday morning (Nov 20), talk was growing that Altman could return to his post in a dramatic U-turn by the OpenAI board.
But this possibility was quashed later that day when Microsoft announced that Altman would be joining them instead.
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Now, OpenAI’s furious employees have demanded that the board which gave Altman the boot should walk the plank themselves.
“The process through which you terminated Sam Altman and removed Greg Brockman from the board has jeopardized [sic] all of this work and undermined our mission and company,” the letter read, adding: “Your conduct has made it clear you did not have the competence to oversee OpenAI.”
They added: "Microsoft has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAI employees at this new subsidiary should we choose to join."
The letter’s signees include Ilya Sutskever, the company’s chief scientist and also a member of the board that dismissed Altman.
Posting on X, Sutskever said: “I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company.”
It was also reported by Reuters that some of OpenAI's investors were considering legal action against the board, amid fears that the potential mass exodus could cause the firm to collapse and lose them millions of dollars.
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