OpenAI opts for surprise CEO choice amidst Sam Altman drama

Nov 20, 2023, 4:43 AM EST
3 mins read
OpenAI opts for surprise CEO choice amidst Sam Altman drama
Sam Altman at OpenAI DevDay (Photo: OpenAI)

In a twist of events, former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear has been named the interim CEO of OpenAI, sidelining the potential return of Sam Altman. The decision was made by the company’s nonprofit board after a weekend of negotiations, as reported by insiders.


The unexpected move follows OpenAI‘s refusal to let Altman reclaim his position as CEO, a decision reportedly driven by the board’s belief that removing Altman was essential for the company’s mission of achieving “broadly beneficial” artificial general intelligence. The board’s stance led to Shear’s appointment as the interim CEO, taking over from Mira Murati, who had publicly supported Altman.

Despite the tumultuous situation, Microsoft, OpenAI’s largest investor, expressed continued commitment to their partnership. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stated that the company remains confident in its product roadmap and highlighted the commitment to providing resources for success.

In response to Altman’s exit, Microsoft has welcomed both Altman and former OpenAI president Greg Brockman to lead a new advanced AI research team at the tech giant.


Altman’s sudden departure from OpenAI was attributed to the board’s assertion that he had not been consistently transparent in his communications. Discussions about his potential return were triggered by pressure from investors and the looming threat of a mass employee walkout.

On Saturday, the board missed a deadline set by Altman’s camp, leading to an outpouring of support for Altman from OpenAI employees on social media. Altman, returning to the company’s office on Sunday, hinted at the possibility of resuming his role as CEO or severing ties with the organization altogether.

The board, consisting of key figures like chief scientist Ilya Sutskever and Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, played a pivotal role in Altman’s removal. Ilya Sutskever, known for his influential role in the AI field, was reportedly central to the decision.


The appointment of Shear as CEO, despite not being viewed as a leader in the AI space, adds another layer of surprise to the unfolding OpenAI saga. Shear left Twitch in March, shortly before significant layoffs, and the company experienced another round of layoffs in October, despite being acquired by Amazon for $1 billion in 2014.

OpenAI, known for the rapid growth of its ChatGPT service with over 100 million weekly users, faces a period of uncertainty with a new leader at the helm.

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