OpenAI CEO Sam Altman ousted, shocking AI world


 The board of the company behind ChatGPT late on Friday fired OpenAI CEO Sam Altman - to many, the human face of generative AI - sending shock waves across the tech industry.

OpenAI's Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati will serve as interim CEO, the company said, adding that it will conduct a formal search for a permanent CEO.

The announcement blindsided many employees who discovered the abrupt management shuffle from an internal announcement and the company's public-facing blog.

"Altman's departure follows a deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities," OpenAI said in the blog without elaborating.

Greg Brockman, OpenAI president and co-founder, who stepped down from the board as chairman as part of the management shuffle, quit the company, he announced on messaging platform X late on Friday. "Based on today's news, i quit," he wrote.

Backed by billions of dollars from Microsoft (MSFT.O), OpenAI kicked off the generative AI craze last November by releasing its ChatGPT chatbot, which became one of the world's fastest-growing software applications.

Trained on reams of data, generative AI can create brand-new human-like content, helping users spin up term papers, complete science homework, and even write entire novels. After ChatGPT's launch, regulators scrambled to catch up: the European Union revised its AI Act undefined and the U.S. kicked off AI regulation efforts.

Altman, who ran Y Combinator, is a serial entrepreneur and investor. He was the face of OpenAI and the wildly popular generative AI technology as he toured the world this year.

Altman posted on X shortly after OpenAI published its blog: "I loved my time at openai. it was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit. most of all I loved working with such talented people. will have more to say about what’s next later."

Altman did not return requests for comment. OpenAI was not reachable for further comment.

Murati, who has worked for Tesla previously, joined OpenAI in 2018 and later became the company's chief technology officer. She oversaw product launches including ChatGPT.

At an emergency all-hands meeting on Friday afternoon after the announcement, Murati sought to calm employees and said OpenAI's partnership with Microsoft is stable and its backer's executives, including CEO Satya Nadella, continue to express confidence in the startup, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The Information previously reported details of the meeting.

APEC Summit in San Francisco

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, attends the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in San Francisco, California, U.S. November 16, 2023. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights

"Microsoft remains committed to Mira and their team as we bring this next era of AI to our customers," a spokesperson for the software maker told Reuters on Friday.

In a statement published on Microsoft's website Nadella added: "We have a long-term agreement with OpenAI ... Together, we will continue to deliver the meaningful benefits of this technology to the world."


Well-wishers and critics piled onto digital forums as the news spread.

On X, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt called Altman "a hero of mine," adding "He built a company from nothing to $90 Billion in value, and changed our collective world forever. I can't wait to see what he does next. I, and billions of people, will benefit from his future work- it's going to be simply incredible."

"This is a shocker and Altman was a key ingredient in the recipe for success of OpenAI," Daniel Ives, analyst at Wedbush Securities said. "That said, we believe Microsoft and Nadella will exert more control at OpenAI going forward with Altman gone."

The full impact of the OpenAI surprise will unfold over time, but its fundraising prospects were an immediate concern. Altman was considered a master fundraiser who managed to negotiate billions of dollars in investment from Microsoft as well as having led the company's tender offer transactions this year that fueled OpenAI's valuation from $29 billion to over $80 billion.

"In the short term, it will impair OpenAI's ability to raise more capital. In the intermediate term it will be a non-issue," said Thomas Hayes, chairman at hedge fund Great Hill Capital.

Other analysts said Altman's departure, while disruptive, would not derail generative AI's popularity OpenAI, or Microsoft's competitive advantage.

"The innovation created by OpenAI is bigger than any one or two people, and there is no reason to think this would cause OpenAI to cede its leadership position," said D.A. Davidson analyst Gil Luria. "If nothing else, Microsoft's stake and significant interest in OpenAI's progress ensure the appropriate leadership changes are being implemented."

As late as Thursday evening, Altman showed no signs of concern at two public events. He joined colleagues in a panel on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in San Francisco, describing his commitment and vision for AI.

Later he spoke at a Burning Man-related event in Oakland, California, engaging in an hour-long conversation on the topic of art and AI. Altman seemed relaxed and gave no indication anything was wrong, but left right after his talk was over at 7:30 p.m.

The event organizer said at the event that Altman had another meeting to attend.

On November 17, 2023, OpenAI announced that Altman would no longer be the company's CEO.

Sam Altman and Mira Murati
Mira Murati joined OpenAI in 2018 when it was only a nonprofit research lab. 

On Friday, the OpenAI board of directors announced that Altman would be stepping down from his role as CEO and leaving the board "effective immediately."

In a blog post, the board said it "no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI," and added that Altman was "not consistently candid in his communications." In the meantime, OpenAI chief technology officer Mira Murati is to step in as interim CEO while the company searches for a permanent replacement.

"We are grateful for Sam's many contributions to the founding and growth of OpenAI," a statement from OpenAI's board says. "At the same time, we believe new leadership is necessary as we move forward."

Altman issued his own statement via a post on X.

"i loved my time at openai. it was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit. most of all i loved working with such talented people," Altman wrote.

He added: "will have more to say about what's next later."

The specific details surrounding Altman's ousting have yet to emerge, but here's a look at his life and career up until now.

Sam Altman, 38, grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. He learned how to program and take apart a Macintosh computer when he was 8 years old.

A view of st Louis with buildings and archway

Source: The New Yorker


He told The New Yorker that having a Mac helped him with his sexuality. Altman came out to his parents when he was 16.

macintosh microsoft visitor center
Matt Weinberger/Business Insider

"Growing up gay in the Midwest in the two-thousands was not the most awesome thing," he told The New Yorker. "And finding AOL chat rooms was transformative. Secrets are bad when you're eleven or twelve."

Source: The New Yorker

He attended John Burroughs School, a private, non-sectarian college-preparatory school in St. Louis.

St. Louis, Missouri
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

Altman came out as gay to the whole community after a Christian group boycotted an assembly at his school that was about sexuality.

"What Sam did changed the school," his college counselor, Madelyn Gray, told The New Yorker. "It felt like someone had opened up a great big box full of all kinds of kids and let them out into the world."

Source: The New Yorker

Altman studied computer science at Stanford University for two years before he and two of his classmates dropped out to work full time on their mobile app, Loopt, that shared a user's location with their friends.

Stanford University

Source: The New Yorker

Loopt was part of the first group of eight companies at startup accelerator Y Combinator. Each startup got $6,000 per founder, and Loopt was in the same batch as Reddit.

Sam Altman Y Combinator
Getty Images

Source: The New YorkerThe Business of Business

Loopt eventually reached a $175 million valuation, but it didn't garner enough interest, so the founders sold it for $43 million in 2012.

sam altman
Drew Angerer/Getty

The $43 million sale price was close to how much it had raised from investors. The company was acquired by Green Dot, a banking company known for prepaid cards.

One of Loopt's cofounders, Nick Sivo, and Altman dated for nine years, but they broke up after they sold the company.

It's unclear what Altman's current net worth is.

Source: The Wall Street JournalAll Things DigitalY CombinatorThe New Yorker

After Loopt, Altman founded a venture fund called Hydrazine Capital, and raised $21 million. That included a large part of the $5 million he got from Loopt, and an investment from billionaire entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel.

Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, Palantir Technologies, and Founders Fund, holds hundred dollar bills as he speaks during the Bitcoin 2022 Conference at Miami Beach Convention Center on April 7, 2022 in Miami, Florida.
Peter Thiel holding hundred dollar bills while speaking at the Bitcoin 2022 Conference. 
Marco Bello/Getty Images

Altman invested 75% of that money into YC companies, and led Reddit's Series B fundraising round.

He told The New Yorker, "you want to invest in messy, somewhat broken companies. You can treat the warts on top, and because of the warts the company will be hugely underpriced."

In 2014, at the age of 28, Altman was chosen by Y Combinator founder Paul Graham to succeed him as president of the startup accelerator.

Sam Altman
Sam Altman, chief executive officer of Y Combinator, speaks to reporters on the first day of the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 11, 2017 in Sun Valley, Idaho. 
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Source: YCCNN

While he was YC president, Altman taught a lecture series at Stanford called "How to Start a Startup," in the fall of 2014.

An image of Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, speaking on a stage.
Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Source: How to Start a Startup

After he became YC president, he wanted to let more science and engineering startups into each batch. He chose a fission and fusion startup for YC because he wanted to start a nuclear-energy company of his own. He invested his own money in both companies and served on their boards.

sam altman
Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator and co-chairman of OpenAI, attends the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 8, 2016 in Sun Valley, Idaho. 
Drew Angerer/Getty

Mark Andreessen, cofounder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, said, "Under Sam, the level of YC's ambition has gone up 10x."

Source: The New Yorker

Altman once told two YC founders that he likes racing cars and had five, including two McLarens and an old Tesla. He also said he likes renting planes and flying them all over California.

An orange McLaren 720S on a wooded road.
The McLaren 720S. 

Source: The New Yorker

Altman told the founders of the startup Shypmate that, "I prep for survival," and warned of either a "lethal synthetic virus," AI attacking humans, or nuclear war.

sam altman
Drew Angerer/Getty

"I try not to think about it too much," Altman told the founders in 2016. "But I have guns, gold, potassium iodide, antibiotics, batteries, water, gas masks from the Israeli Defense Force, and a big patch of land in Big Sur I can fly to."

Source: The New Yorker

Altman's mom is a dermatologist and told The New Yorker, "Sam does keep an awful lot tied up inside. He'll call and say he has a headache—and he'll have Googled it, so there's some cyber-chondria in there, too. I have to reassure him that he doesn't have meningitis or lymphoma, that it's just stress."

Sam Altman
Getty Images

Source: The New Yorker

Altman has a brother, Jack, who is a cofounder and CEO at Lattice, an employee management platform. Along with their brother Max, the Altmans launched a fund in 2020 called Apollo that is focused on funding "moonshot" companies.

jack altman and his wife, julia, standing in front of a blurred palm tree in a park
Julia and Jack Altman walk near their home in the Mission District of San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday, July 7, 2019. 
San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images/Contributor

"Moonshot" companies are startups that are financially risky but could potentially pay off with a breakthrough development.

Source: Insider

In 2015, Altman cofounded OpenAI with Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX at the time. Their goal for the non-profit artificial intelligence company was to make sure AI doesn't wipe out humans.

L-R) Tesla Motors CEO and Product Architect Elon Musk and Y Combinator President Sam Altman speak onstage during "What Will They Think of Next? Talking About Innovation" at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on October 6, 2015 in San Francisco, California.
Elon Musk and Sam Altman speak onstage during the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit on October 6, 2015 in San Francisco, California. 
Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

"We discussed what is the best thing we can do to ensure the future is good?" Elon Musk told The New York Times in 2015. "We could sit on the sidelines or we can encourage regulatory oversight, or we could participate with the right structure with people who care deeply about developing A.I. in a way that is safe and is beneficial to humanity."

Source: InsiderThe New York Times

Some of Silicon Valley's most prominent names pledged $1 billion to OpenAI along with Altman and Musk, including Reid Hoffman, the cofounder of LinkedIn, and Peter Thiel.

Reid Hoffman
LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman is a financial backer of OpenAI. 
Tony Avelar/AP

Source: Insider

After the 2016 election, Altman, who tweeted that he voted against Donald Trump, said he decided to talk to 100 Trump supporters around the US to understand what they did and didn't like about the president. He also wanted to know "what would convince them not to vote for him in the future."

Donald Trump Hillary Clinton
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton 
Drew Angerer/Getty Image

In a thread on Twitter, Altman said he was "voting against Trump because I believe the principles he stands for represent an unacceptable threat to America."

He also said Peter Thiel, who was still working with YC at the time, "is a high profile supporter of Trump," and that, "I disagree with this."

But, he said, "YC is not going to fire someone for supporting a major party nominee."

YC and Thiel stopped working together a year later in 2017 for unspecified reasons.

During his interviews, Altman said he "did not expect to talk to so many Muslims, Mexicans, Black people, and women in the course of this project."

He said almost everyone he approached was willing to talk to him, but they also didn't want to share their names in fear of being "targeted by those people in Silicon Valley if they knew I voted for him." Altman said one of the people he talked to in Silicon Valley made him sign a confidentiality agreement before talking because she was scared of losing her job for supporting Trump.

Source: TwitterSam AltmanInsider

Altman stepped down as YC president in March 2019 to focus on OpenAI. He stayed in a chairman role at the accelerator.

sam altman
Sam Altman, CEO of Y Combinator 

Source: Insider

At a StrictlyVC event in 2019, Altman was asked how OpenAI planned to make a profit, and he said the "honest answer is we have no idea."

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and Elon Musk
Former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and Elon Musk 

Altman said OpenAI had "never made any revenue," and that it had "no current plans to make revenue." 

"We have no idea how we may one day generate revenue," he said at the time.

Source: TechCrunch

Altman became CEO of OpenAI in May 2019 after it turned away from being a nonprofit company into a "capped profit" corporation.

Sam Altman
Sam Altman finished a global tour in June to sell AI as a force for good to leaders. 
Skye Gould/Business Insider

"We want to increase our ability to raise capital while still serving our mission, and no pre-existing legal structure we know of strikes the right balance," OpenAI said on its blog. "Our solution is to create OpenAI LP as a hybrid of a for-profit and nonprofit — which we are calling a 'capped-profit' company."

Source: InsiderFortune

Altman flew to Seattle to meet with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, where he demonstrated OpenAI's AI models for him, WSJ reported. After that, OpenAI received a $1 billion investment from Microsoft in 2019.

Sam Altman
President of Y Combinator, Sam Altman speaks at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2014 - Day 1 on May 5, 2014 in New York City. 
Brian Ach/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Source: The Wall Street JournalLinkedInInsider

Current and former insiders at OpenAI told Fortune that after Altman took over as CEO, and after the investment from Microsoft, the company started focusing more on developing natural language processing.

Sam Altman
Brian Ach/Getty

Altman and OpenAI's chief scientist, Ilya Sutskever, said the move to focus on large language models is the best way for the company to reach artificial general intelligence, or AGI, a system that has broad human-level cognitive abilities. 

Source: Fortune

On October 21, 2021, Altman and his cofounders, Alex Blania and Max Novendstern, launched a global cryptocurrency project called Worldcoin, which wanted to give everyone in the world access to crypto by scanning their iris with an orb.

Worldcoin founders Sam Altman and Alex Blania
Worldcoin founders Alex Blania and Sam Altman 
Marc Olivier Le Blanc/Worldcoin

The company was started in 2020, but stopped operating in a few countries in 2022 due to logistics issues. In January, the company recently tweeted that it has reached 1 million people and has onboarded over 150,000 first-time crypto users.

Source: BloombergInsiderTwitter


ChatGPT was made public so OpenAI could use feedback from users to improve the bot. A few days after its launch, Altman tweeted that it "is incredibly limited, but good enough at some things to create a misleading impression of greatness."

An image of a phone with ChatGPT and OpenAI's logo visible.
Getty Images

Altman tweeted that ChatGPT was "great" for "fun creative inspiration," but "not such a good idea" to look up facts.

ChatGPT recently began testing a paid version of ChatGPT called "ChatGPT Professional" that is supposed to give better access to the bot. In December, Altman tweeted that OpenAI "will have to monetize it somehow at some point; the compute costs are eye-watering."

Source: InsiderInsiderTwitterTwitterTwitter

In January, Microsoft again announced it was making a "multibillion dollar" investment into OpenAI. Although specifics of the investment were not shared, it is believed Microsoft's investment is worth $10 billion.

Y Combinator President Sam Altman
Y Combinator President Sam Altman 
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Before Microsoft's investment, other venture capitalists wanted to buy shares from OpenAI employees in a tender offer that valued the company at around $29 billion.

Source: InsiderFortune

Altman is still interested in nuclear fusion and invested $375 million in Helion Energy last year.

sam altman wearing a black t shirt, black jacket, grey pants and sunglasses
Sam Altman, former CEO of OpenAI, walks from lunch during the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 06, 2022 in Sun Valley, Idaho. 
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

"Helion is more than an investment to me," Altman told TechCrunch. "It's the other thing beside OpenAI that I spend a lot of time on. I'm just super excited about what's going to happen there."

He told TechCrunch that he's "happy there's a fusion race," to build a low-cost fusion energy system that can eventually power the Earth.

Source: TechCrunchCNBC

Last month, OpenAI launched its pilot subscription plan for ChatGPT Plus, which costs $20 a month.

Illustration: ChatGPT
Illustration: ChatGPT 
Future Publishing/

People who pay $20 a month for ChatGPT Plus get benefits such as access to the site even when traffic is high, faster responses from the bot, and first access to new features and ChatGPT improvements.

The subscription is only available for people in the US, and OpenAI said it will soon start inviting people on the waitlist to join.

Source: OpenAI

Altman recently wrote that OpenAI's mission is to make sure AGI "benefits all of humanity. He laid out the company's short term and long term expectations for AGI development in a blog post.

OpenAI's Sam Altman
JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images

"If AGI is successfully created, this technology could help us elevate humanity by increasing abundance, turbocharging the global economy, and aiding in the discovery of new scientific knowledge that changes the limits of possibility," Altman wrote on OpenAI's blog.

Despite its potential, Altman said AGI, or artificial general intelligence, comes with "serious risk of misuse, drastic accidents, and societal disruption." But instead of stopping its development, Altman said "society and the developers of AGI have to figure out how to get it right."

Altman went on to share the principles OpenAI "care about most," including that "the benefits of, access to, and governance of AGI to be widely and fairly shared."

Source: OpenAI


Altman said he and OpenAI are "a little bit scared" of AI's potential as it continues to develop.

person holding phone with the word 'gpt-4' on it
GPT-4 (Generative Pre-trained Transformer 4) is the latest multimodal large language model from Open AI, a successor to Chat-GPT. It was released to a limited audience on March 14, 2023. 
Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In an interview with ABC News, Altman said he thinks "people should be happy that we're a little bit scared" of generative AI systems as they develop.

Altman said he doesn't think AI systems should only be developed in a lab.

"You've got to get these products out into the world and make contact with reality, make our mistakes while the stakes are low," he said.

Source: InsiderABC News




OpenAI recently announced the option to turn off chat history in ChatGPT so the data can't be used to train and improve its models.

chatgpt on phone

In a blog post, the company said it hopes the option to turn off chat history "provides an easier way to manage your data than our existing opt-out process."

When a user turns off their chat history, new conversations will be kept for 30 days for OpenAI to review them for abuse, then are permanently deleted.

Source: OpenAIInsider

In his first appearance before Congress, Altman told a Senate panel there should be a government agency to grant licenses to companies working on advanced AI.

Sam Altman testifying before Congress in May 2023
Sam Altman testifies before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law in mid-May. 
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Altman told lawmakers there should be an agency that grants licenses for companies that are working on AI models "above a certain scale of capabilities." He also said the agency should be able to revoke licenses from companies that don't follow safety rules.

"I think if this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong," Altman said. "And we want to be vocal about that, we want to work with the government to prevent that from happening." 

Source: Insider

OpenAI recently launched a ChatGPT app for iPhones in the US that will soon roll out to Android users and other countries.

ChatGPT iPhone app
OpenAI released its official ChatGPT app to iPhone users this week. 

The app, which is free, can answer text-based and spoken questions using Whisper, another OpenAI product that is a speech-recognition model. Users who have a subscription to ChatGPT Plus can also access it through the app.

Source: InsiderInsider


Correction: February 2, 2023 — An earlier version of this story defined AGI incorrectly and listed the incorrect age at which Altman was named president of Y Combinator. AGI in this context stands for artificial general intelligence. Altman became president of Y Combinator at 28, not 31.

Altman has been meeting with leaders in Europe to discuss AI regulations and said OpenAI has "no plans to leave" the EU, despite his earlier concerns over the EU's proposed AI Act.

Photo of Sam Altman speaking at the Senate hearing on Tuesday.
OpenAI's former CEO Sam Altman believes AI could surpass humanity in most domains in the next 10 years. 
Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters.

At the start of his trip, Altman told reporters in London that he was concerned about the EU's proposed AI Act that focuses on regulating AI and protecting Europeans from AI risks.

"The details really matter," Altman said, according to the Financial Times. "We will try to comply, but if we can't comply, we will cease operating."

However, he shared on Twitter later in the week that OpenAI is "excited to continue to operate here and of course have no plans to leave."

Source: InsiderFinancial TimesInsiderTwitter

In an October interview, Altman expressed "deep misgivings" about people befriending AI.

Sam Altman
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Altman made it clear that he doesn't believe humans should try to be friends with AI in an interview during Wall Street Journal's Tech Live event.

"I personally really have deep misgivings about this vision of the future where everyone is super close to AI friends, and not more so with their human friends," Altman said

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