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The backstory: OpenAI's ChatGPT has been the talk of the town, raking in over 100 million weekly users. But this week, the buzz is not about the chatbot – it's about Sam Altman, the face of OpenAI since 2019 who got the boot last week. OpenAI pointed to a lack of transparency in Altman's communication style, and the board lost confidence in his leadership.
Tech giant Microsoft, which invested US$13 billion in OpenAI, quickly snatched up Altman and OpenAI co-founder, Greg Brockman, to run a new AI unit. But ousting Altman didn't sit well with OpenAI employees. They demanded the resignation of the entire board and accused them of mismanagement in handling Altman's exit. Most of them threatened to join Altman at Microsoft if this didn’t happen.
More recently: In the post-Altman era, both Altman and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella addressed concerns about OpenAI's stability. Altman assured everyone that OpenAI would keep sailing smoothly, emphasizing the need for business as usual. On the other side, in a CNBC interview, Nadella was open to employees sticking with OpenAI or making the switch to Microsoft. But he stressed that OpenAI needed better governance, no matter what happened with Altman.
The development: OpenAI has named Emmett Shear, the former long-time CEO of Twitch, as its interim CEO. He's taking over from Mira Murati, who was filling in after Altman left and will go back to being OpenAI's Chief Technology Officer. Shear has a plan for OpenAI's future. He wants to reorganize the management team and look into the events leading up to Altman leaving.
Shear brings a lot of experience from his 16-year tenure as CEO of Twitch, playing a pivotal role in its growth and eventual acquisition by Amazon in 2014. After leaving in March, he spent the last seven months helping startups at Y Combinator.
But the latest reports coming out from insiders say that Sam Altman, members of the OpenAI board and Shear are beginning negotiations to bring Altman back on as CEO at OpenAI.
“We look forward to getting to know Emmett Shear,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on X. “And we’re extremely excited to share the news that Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, together with colleagues, will be joining Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team. "
"At this point, I think it’s very clear that something has to change around the governance,” said Nadella during an interview.
“The board did *not* remove Sam over any specific disagreement on safety, their reasoning was completely different from that,” said Emmett Shear. “I’m not crazy enough to take this job without board support for commercializing our awesome models.”