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OpenAI workers say they'll quit unless Sam Altman is reinstated as CEO

OpenAI workers say they'll quit unless Sam Altman is reinstated as CEO

OpenAI is a company in open rebellion, with a majority of its workers threatening to quit unless ousted CEO Sam Altman and fellow OpenAI cofounder, Greg Brockman, are reinstated.

More than 500 of OpenAI's roughly 770 employees are also demanding that the board behind Altman's firing resign, saying in a letter first posted online by veteran technology journalist Kara Swisher: "We are unable to work for or with people that lack competence, judgement and care for our mission and employees."

Further, the workers threatened to quit the ChatGPT maker and to join the newly announced Microsoft subsidiary run by Altman and Brockman, saying they'd received assurances from Microsoft that it has positions for all OpenAI employees.

The document was signed by Mira Murati, OpenAI's chief technology officer, who was briefly tapped as interim CEO, and Ilya Sutskever, a board member viewed as having a hand in Altman's abrupt firing on Friday.

"I deeply regret my participation in the board's actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we've built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company," Sutskever posted Monday on X.

Firing of Sam Altman

Altman's ouster on Friday took his colleagues, as well as Microsoft — the company's largest shareholder and technology partner — by surprise, according to the letter, which came amidst a flurry of posts on X by OpenAI staffers, including Murati, stating "Open AI is nothing without its people."

After an attempt to get Altman reinstated unraveled, OpenAI's four-person board on Sunday night appointed Emmett Shear, the co-founder and former CEO of Twitch, a game-streaming website, as interim CEO, replacing Murati.

Shear's hiring "will forever be viewed as a tainted move by OpenAI that caused chaos internally and externally," Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives wrote Monday in a note to clients.

"If Microsoft lost Altman he could have gone to Amazon, Google, Apple or a host of other tech companies craving to get the face of AI globally to their doors," said Ives. "Instead he is safely in Microsoft's HQ now leading the company's key AI efforts which we expect many key scientists and developers to leave OpenAI and head directly to Microsoft."

Still, despite the rift between those behind AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT and the company they helped create, both Shear and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said they are committed to their partnership. Microsoft has invested billions of dollars in the startup.

OpenAI on Friday said Altman was "not consistently candid in his communications" with the board, which lost confidence in his leadership abilities as a result.

Shear said in an X post on Monday that he would hire an independent investigator to probe Altman's ouster and write a report within 30 days. "It's clear that the process and communications around Sam's removal has been handled very badly," he wrote.

Shear said he would "drive changes in the organization," including "significant governance changes if necessary."He noted that the reason behind the board removing Altman was not a "specific disagreement on safety." It was likely a reference to the debates that have swirled around OpenAI's mission to safely build AI that is "generally smarter than humans."OpenAI last week declined to answer questions on what its reference to Altman's alleged lack of candor was about. In its statement, the board said Altman's behavior was hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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