Hundreds of OpenAI employees threaten to follow Altman to Microsoft unless board resigns

Hundreds of OpenAI employees, including co-founder and board member Ilya Sutskever, have signed a letter demanding that either the remaining OpenAI board members resign or that those employees OpenAI join Sam Altman’s new company at Microsoftaccording to NBCNews.

“Your actions have made it clear that you are incapable of overseeing OpenAI,” the letter said. Around 667 people signed the letter. OpenAI has approximately 770 employees.

The letter states that Microsoft “assured” these employees that they would have a job at the new subsidiary if they “chose to join.”

The signatories include some of OpenAI’s most senior executives. Former interim CEO Mira Murati and OpenAI COO Brad Lightcap are the first two signatories of the letter. Murati was named CEO after Altman left, but was later replaced by Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear.

Wired was first reported in the letter Monday morning.

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, speaks at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJ Tech Live conference in Laguna Beach, California, October 17, 2023.

Patrick T. Fallon | AFP | Getty Images

In an about-face, Sutskever’s name appears as a signature on the letter. He wrote Monday morning on social media platform

Several OpenAI employees also expressed their support on social media. “OpenAI is nothing without its collaborators,” the missives state.

Altman was forced out Friday by OpenAI’s board, including Sutskever, who cited unspecified issues in his communications. That sparked a backlash from employees and investors, CNBC previously reported, including Microsoft, Thrive Capital and Sequoia.

The board then attempted to negotiate Altman’s return, but those talks failed. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced Sunday that Altman and fellow OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman would join the company in a new, largely independent venture. Nadella’s announcement also referred to their “colleagues” joining Microsoft, although the number was unclear.

Microsoft declined to say whether it would hire employees who choose to leave OpenAI. OpenAI was not immediately available for comment on the letter.

Here is the full note, highlighting theirs:

“To the OpenAI Board of Directors,

OpenAI is the world leader in AI. We, the people at OpenAI, have developed the best models and pushed the field to new frontiers. Our work on AI security and governance shapes global standards. The products we build are used by millions of people around the world. Until now, the company we work for and love has never been in a stronger position.

The process by which you fired Sam Altman and removed Greg Brockman from the board jeopardized all of that work and undermined our mission and our company. Your conduct has clearly shown that you lack the competence to oversee OpenAI.

When we all unexpectedly learned of your decision, the OpenAI management team acted quickly to stabilize the company. They listened carefully to your concerns and tried to cooperate with you in every way. Despite numerous requests for specific facts to support your allegations, you have never provided written evidence. They also increasingly realized that you were incapable of carrying out your duties and that you were negotiating in bad faith.

The leadership team suggested that the most stabilizing path – the one that would best serve our mission, our company, our stakeholders, our employees and the public – would be for you to resign and establish a board of directors qualified person who could lead the company towards stability. . Leaders worked with you around the clock to find a mutually acceptable outcome. Yet two days after your initial decision, you once again replaced interim CEO Mira Murati, disregarding the company’s best interests. You also informed the leadership team that allowing the company to be destroyed “would be mission consistent.”

Your actions have made it clear that you are incapable of overseeing OpenAI. We are unable to work for or with people who lack skill, judgment, and concern for our mission and our people. We, the undersigned, may choose to resign from OpenAI and join the newly announced Microsoft subsidiary, led by Sam Altman and Greg Brockman. Microsoft assured us that there would be positions for all OpenAI employees in this new subsidiary if we chose to join. We will take this action imminently unless all current board members resign and the board appoints two new lead independent directors, such as Bret Taylor and Will Hurd, and reinstates Sam Altman and Greg Brockman.

CNBC’s Jordan Novet and Hayden Field contributed to this report.

Read more CNBC news on OpenAI

This is breaking news. Please check again for updates.


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