The AI company announced Mr. Altman’s exit in a Friday afternoon blog post that said the board decided a leadership change was necessary without offering a full explanation.
“Mr. 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,” the company said. “The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.”
Mr. Altman has not just served as the leader atop OpenAI but is the face of the larger boom of generative AI products that Washington has turned to for advice. He had the ear of policymakers in the White House and on Capitol Hill.
President Biden and his team met with Mr. Altman as White House officials shaped the AI executive order unveiled last month and senators solicited Mr. Altman’s input when drafting legislation on rules for AI.
Mr. Altman visited the White House alongside Big Tech executives in May to meet with Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Mr. Altman’s OpenAI then joined a voluntary commitment to the White House in July to ensure AI makers’ products are safe before they are publicly released.
He also testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in May, when he urged the government to issue new regulations.
After Mr. Biden issued a sweeping AI executive order in October to shape the emerging tech’s development and deployment, Mr. Altman was hesitant to embrace the order.
“There are some great parts about the AI EO, but as the govt implements it, it will be important not to slow down innovation by smaller companies/research teams,” Mr. Altman said on X.
His sudden ouster is sure to shake Washington and AI developers around the world who relied upon his judgment.
The turmoil atop OpenAI is bad for Microsoft’s business as well, as the Big Tech company said earlier this year it was investing billions of dollars in OpenAI. Microsoft’s stock price tumbled instantly on the news of Mr. Altman’s departure.
“The minute this thing started to filter out Microsoft shares started to fall,” CNBC’s Scott Wapner said on-air before the market closed on Friday. “They’re down near 2% now, I suppose for obvious reasons, because of that relationship that these two companies … have had.”
Friction between Microsoft and OpenAI spilled into public view last week. Microsoft blocked its employees from using OpenAI’s ChatGPT for a brief period last week amid security concerns, according to CNBC.
As OpenAI looks to chart a new path forward, the company installed Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati as interim CEO.
“She brings a unique skill set, understanding of the company’s values, operations, and business, and already leads the company’s research, product, and safety functions,” OpenAI said. “Given her long tenure and close engagement with all aspects of the company, including her experience in AI governance and policy, the board believes she is uniquely qualified.”