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Boardroom Power Struggle: OpenAI board coup and the counter-coup of the investor

Adetoyese Adedokun

17 Nov 2023

The Movement to Reinstate Sam Altman

Sam Altman was dismissed as CEO of OpenAI in a decision announced by the company's board of directors, following a "deliberative review process." The board's decision, made public on 17th November 2023, was based on their finding that Altman was not consistently candid in his communications, which they felt hindered their ability to effectively oversee the company's governance. This decision caused a ripple effect, with Greg Brockman, a co-founder and the company's president, stepping down as chairman but remaining as president. Mira Murati, the CTO, was appointed interim CEO. Altman, who co-founded OpenAI and played a significant role in its development and regulatory engagement, had his departure announced unexpectedly, surprising many in the industry.

The impact of Altman's ousting was immediately felt, notably affecting Microsoft, a major investor in OpenAI. The precise reasons for Altman's alleged dishonesty with the board and the specifics of Brockman's resignation from the board remain unclear. This leadership change marked a significant shift for OpenAI, a leader in AI technology development, underscoring the importance of governance and transparency in the rapidly evolving AI sector. The reasons behind Altman's alleged lack of honesty in dealings with the board remain unclear, as do the specifics of the incidents that led to the board's decision. The sudden nature of this leadership change, especially given Altman's active public presence and involvement in significant events leading up to his dismissal, was described as "astonishing" by industry observers.

Following Sam Altman's unexpected dismissal as CEO of OpenAI, a concerted effort by investors, including Microsoft and prominent venture capital firms, is underway to reinstate him. These investors, along with OpenAI employees, are considering options such as removing the board that oversees OpenAI and reinstating Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman. The board's decision, attributed to Altman's alleged lack of candor, has led to discussions about potentially reorganizing the company's governance structure. This situation underscores the complexity and challenges in balancing rapid AI development with safety and ethical considerations, highlighting the unique corporate structure and governance of OpenAI.

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