The board of ChatGPT-maker Open AI said Friday it has pushed out its co-founder and chief executive Sam Altman after a review found he was “not consistently candid in his communications” with the board.
“The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI,” the artificial intelligence company said in a statement.
Mira Murati, OpenAI’s chief technology officer, will take over as interim CEO effective immediately, the company said, while it searches for a permanent replacement.
An OpenAI spokesperson declined to answer questions on what Mr. Altman’s alleged lack of candour was about. The statement said his behaviour was hindering the board’s ability to exercise its responsibilities.
Mr. Altman posted Friday on X, formerly Twitter: “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.”
The Associated Press and OpenAI have a licensing and technology agreement that allows OpenAI access to part of AP’s text archives.
Mr. Altman helped start OpenAI as a non-profit research laboratory in 2015.
In the past year, he was thrust into the global spotlight as the face of OpenAI and the broader AI boom after ChatGPT exploded into public consciousness. On a world tour earlier this year, he was mobbed by a crowd of adoring fans at an event in London.
Just Thursday, he took part in a CEO summit at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation conference in San Francisco, where OpenAI is based.
He predicted AI will prove to be “the greatest leap forward of any of the big technological revolutions we’ve had so far.” But he also acknowledged the need for guardrails to protect humanity from the existential threat posed by the quantum leaps being taken by computers.
As part of the transition announced Friday, OpenAI’s president and board chairman, Greg Brockman, will be stepping down as chairman of the board but will remain in his role at the company, reporting to the CEO. The statement gave no explanation for that change.
The company said its board consists of OpenAI’s chief scientist, Ilya Sutskever, and three non-employees: Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, tech entrepreneur Tasha McCauley, and Helen Toner of the Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology.
OpenAI’s key business partner, Microsoft, which has invested billions of dollars into the startup and helped provide the computing power to run its AI systems, said Friday that the transition won’t affect its relationship.
“We have a long-term partnership with OpenAI and Microsoft remains committed to Mira and their team as we bring this next era of AI to our customers,” said an e-mailed Microsoft statement.
Mr. Altman, now 38, has been seen as a Silicon Valley wunderkind since his early 20s. He was recruited in 2014 to take lead of the startup incubator YCombinator by its co-founder, venture capitalist Paul Graham.
“Sam is one of the smartest people I know, and understands startups better than perhaps anyone I know, including myself,” read Mr. Graham’s 2014 announcement that Altman would become the incubator’s president. Mr. Graham said at the time that Mr. Altman was “one of those rare people who manage to be both fearsomely effective and yet fundamentally benevolent.”
OpenAI started out as a non-profit research laboratory when it launched in December, 2015, with financial backing from Tesla CEO Elon Musk and others. Its stated aims were to “advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return.”
That changed in 2018 when it incorporated a for-profit business Open AI LP, and shifted nearly all its staff into the business, not long after releasing its first generation of the GPT large language model for generating paragraphs of readable text. Around the same time, Mr. Musk, who had co-chaired its board, resigned from the board in a move that the startup tied to eliminating a “potential future conflict for Elon” due to Tesla’s work on building automated driving systems.
Forrester analyst Rowan Curran said Mr. Altman’s departure, “while sudden,” does not likely reflect problems with OpenAI’s business.
“This seems to be a case of an executive transition that was about issues with the individual in question, and not with the underlying technology or business,” Mr. Curran said.