Updated Nov 22, 2023 - Technology

OpenAI chaos: A timeline of firings, interim CEOs, re-hirings and other twists

Illustration of a repeating pattern of robot hands holding magnifying glasses.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If we've learned anything from the mess at OpenAI, it's that the humans are still in charge, for now. Here's a timeline of everything we know that happened in OpenAI's c-suite and boardroom this week.

Why it matters: The culture clash inside OpenAI mirrors our own collective uncertainty and anxiety about the potential capabilities and risks of artificial intelligence.

Nov. 16: Sam Altman gets a text Thursday night from one of OpenAI's co-founders asking him to join a Google Meet chat on Friday.

Nov. 16: OpenAI reportedly contacts CTO Mira Murati and taps her to be the next OpenAI CEO.

Nov. 17: Microsoft learns of Altman's firing "a minute" before the world does, Axios reports.

Nov. 17: OpenAI releases statement that CEO Sam Altman will be leaving the company "after a deliberative review process by the board" and that Greg Brockman will be stepping down as chair.

Nov. 17: Late that evening Brockman announces he is quitting the company.

Nov. 18: Microsoft releases a statement: "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."

Nov. 18: According to an internal memo from COO Brad Lightcap, the firing of Altman was not the result of "malfeasance or anything related to our financial, business, safety, or security/privacy practices."

Nov. 19: Microsoft announces that it has hired Altman and Greg Brockman to lead a new research unit.

A screenshot of a tweet of Sam Altman holding a Microsoft badge. The tweet says first and last time i ever wear one of these
via X

Nov. 19: Altman tweets "the mission continues."

Nov. 20: OpenAI announces another interim CEO — Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear.

Nov. 20: The overwhelming majority of OpenAI's 700-plus employees sign an open letter urging the board to resign, saying they would quit if its members didn't.

Nov. 20: OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever publicly says that he deeply regrets his role in Altman's firing.

Nov. 21: OpenAI released ChatGPT with voice to unpaid users showing the organization continues its work even amid the drama.

Nov. 21: CTO Mira Murati (briefly acting CEO) shared a photo with Brockman, Altman, others, and herself at Altman's house with the caption "still working on it…"

Nov. 21: Just after 10pm, OpenAI releases a statement that it has come to a "​​deal in principle" for Altman to return as CEO, with a new board chaired by former Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor.

via X

Nov. 29: OpenAI officially reinstates Altman as CEO and Brockman as president, says Microsoft will get a non-voting observer sat on the board.

Nov. 29: Altman tells Axios the "highest priority" for the company's new board is exploring a range of changes to "improve the governance structure" — including whether OpenAI remains controlled by a non-profit entity.

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