Amid the chaotic fallout from Sam Altman’s firing, one thing is clear: OpenAI employees, including top leadership, are on Altman’s side.
Public posts of support on social media, reports of employees jumping ship — and now an open letter signed by hundreds of employees threatening to quit — make it abundantly clear that OpenAI workers are pissed. This comes after negotiations to reinstate Altman as CEO broke down and Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear was appointed new CEO.
Altman’s unexpected firing on Friday afternoon set off a frenzy in the tech world. Speculation and theories about why he was abruptly fired ran wild as people tried to piece together what happened. As more details trickled out, including posts from Altman and Brockman sharing their side of the story, a narrative took shape that Altman was unjustly fired. Add the bungled attempt to bring back Altman to existing sentiment that the board wrongly fired Altman and you’ve got employees in open revolt.
According to Wired and tech journalist Kara Swisher, around 500 (out of 700) employees said they will quit if the board doesn’t step down. The letter didn’t mince words: “Your actions have made it obvious that you are incapable of overseeing OpenAI. We are unable to work for or with people that lack competence, judgment and care for our mission and employees,” it read. The letter said they might choose to work for Sam Altman and Greg Brockman who were just hired by Microsoft.
The top signatories include CTO Mira Murati, who was initially chosen as interim CEO, COO Brad Lightcap, Chief Strategy Officer Jason Kwon, as well as Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever, who as a board member, helped fire Altman, but now regrets his participation in the coup.
OpenAI is reportedly bleeding “dozens of staffers” according to The Information. The open letter makes it clear that hundreds are willing to leave if the board isn’t replaced. Early on Monday morning, OpenAI leadership seemingly expressed their support for Altman by posting “OpenAI is nothing without its people” on X (formerly known as Twitter.) Those who posted the apparent coordinated message include Murati, Kwon, and Lightcap.
Here’s a recap. Altman was fired; Brockman quit. Murati was CEO for about two days. Altman was almost rehired, but the board appointed Shear as the new CEO instead. Sutskever feels bad — and a mass exodus at OpenAI has begun.