An internal memo sent to OpenAI staff on Saturday after former CEO Sam Altman’s abrupt firing reiterates that “a breakdown in communication” led to the decision, not “malfeasance or anything related to our financial, business, safety, or security/privacy practices,” according to reporting from Axios and The New York Times. The memo obtained by both publications was sent to employees by OpenAI’s Chief Operating Officer Brad Lightcap.
Speculation has been nonstop since Altman was ousted unexpectedly as CEO on Friday and dropped from the company’s board of directors, with little concrete information from OpenAI itself to go on. In its announcement of the decision, the board said only that he was not “consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.” The board named Mira Murati, OpenAI’s Chief Technology Officer, as interim CEO.
In response, OpenAI’s now-former president, Greg Brockman, announced he was stepping down too, tweeting, “Sam and I are shocked and saddened by what the board did today.” Three senior researchers later resigned as well, according to The Information. Now, in another report, sources told The Information that Altman already has a “new venture” in the works, and he plans to bring Brockman and possibly others on with him. It’s as yet unclear if this venture is separate from Altman’s other known upcoming projects, including a purported collaboration with former Apple designer Jony Ive.
Numerous reports in the aftermath have attempted to provide an explanation for Altman’s firing, with some claiming there were concerns over the rapid development of the company’s AI products and, according to journalist Kara Swisher, its “profit driven direction.” In Saturday’s memo, per Axios, Lightcap wrote that the announcement “took us all by surprise,” and “we have had multiple conversations with the board to try to better understand the reasons and process behind their decision.”
if i start going off, the openai board should go after me for the full value of my shares
— Sam Altman (@sama) November 18, 2023
The sudden shakeup could now have ramifications for the impending sale of OpenAI’s employee shares, valued at roughly $86 billion, The Information reported. In a cryptic tweet on Saturday, Altman quipped, “if i start going off, the openai board should go after me for the full value of my shares (sic).”