Sam Altman’s final days as CEO of OpenAI gave no indication that trouble was brewing

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, and Mira Murat, Chief Technology Officer of OpenAI, speak at the Wall Street Journal's WSJ Tech Live conference in Laguna Beach, California on October 17, 2023.

Patrick T. Fallon Afp | Getty Images

Sam Altman's sudden ouster from OpenAI on Friday shocked Silicon Valley. Not only was Altman, 38, the CEO of the hottest startup on the planet, but he emerged as the face of generative AI after his company's ChatGPT chatbot went viral late last year.

From the outside, there were some signs of technological challenges at OpenAI, but no indication that tensions were brewing in the boardroom and C-suite. Altman was still out there, proselytizing the value of advanced artificial intelligence while also warning of its potential harm and advocating for regulation.

just last month There were reports that OpenAI was in talks with investors to sell shares to employees for a staggering $86 billion. This comes after tech valuations have corrected sharply over the past 18 months from a decade-long bull market fueled by cheap money and lots of FOMO (fear of missing out).

OpenAI has been an industry darling in times of trouble. Microsoft Billions of dollars are pouring in. The company topped CNBC's Disruptor 50 list released in May. Shortly before the list was released, Altman told CNBC, “I think we're deep into a new technology wave, and it's, I think, the biggest one in a long time.”

All of this made Altman's exit hard to predict, and it was in the tech community as well comparison to move of Apple The firing of Steve Jobs in 1985 statement On its website, OpenAI said: “The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue to lead OpenAI.” The company named Mira Murat, who was chief technology officer, as interim CEO.

If you've been following Altman for the past two weeks, you've seen the industry leader at the center of the action. Here's an abbreviated timeline of the days leading up to Altman's departure:

November 6:

November 8:

November 14:

Altman Posted on X, formerly Twitter, that there would be a pause when signing up for ChatGPT Plus. He said there has been a surge in demand since the DevDay announcements, and that usage “has exceeded our capacity and we want to make sure everyone has a great experience.”

November 16:

Altman appeared at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco to talk about AI.

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At 3:28 p.m. Friday, OpenAI published a blog post announcing Altman's firing. At the same time, the company said that Greg Brockman, president of OpenAI, has been removed from the role of chairman of the board, but will remain as an executive.

Here's what happened next:

4:46 pm ET:

Altman made his first public announcement of his departure, writing on X that his experience at the company had been “transformational for me personally and, hopefully, for the world.”

7:09 pm ET:

Brockman Announced on X that he left the company “based on today's news” and said he was “super proud of what we've all built together since starting in my apartment 8 years ago.”

11:42 pm ET:

In post X, Brockman provided us with A Detailed report Altman removal.

He said that on Thursday night, Altman received a text from OpenAI co-founder Ilya Sutzkever asking if they could talk the next afternoon. On Friday afternoon, Brockman wrote that Altman joined a Google Meet with OpenAI board members Sutskever, Tasha McCauley, Adam D'Angelo and Helen Toner. Brockman, who was chairman of the board at the time, was not there.

At the meeting, Sutzkever told Altman that he was not the CEO. Shortly thereafter, Sutzkever informed Brockman that he was being fired as chairman but could remain president. The OpenAI blog post was published “around the same time,” Brockman writes.

He said that apparently Murat knew about the move only the night before. Altman republished Brockman's chronicle of events.

November 18:

OpenAI says Sam Altman steps down as CEO after board loses confidence