After a weekend of negotiations to potentially bring back Sam Altman as OpenAI CEO following his shock firing, the company’s nonprofit board has gone another way entirely and named former Twitch CEO and co-founder Emmett Shear as interim CEO, according to a person familiar with the matter. He will take over as CEO from Mira Murati, who was publicly aligned with Altman.
That’s three CEOs in three days, if you’re keeping track.
Shear’s surprise appointment comes after OpenAI’s four-person board refused to step down and let Altman return, according to multiple sources. The news was first reported by The Information, which said that employees were told Sunday that removing Altman was the “only path” to achieving the company’s mission of “broadly beneficial” artificial general intelligence.
Spokespeople for OpenAI and Microsoft, its largest investor, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
OpenAI’s four-person board refused to step down
The hiring of Shear appears to close the door on Altman’s sudden exit after the board said he had not been “consistently candid in his communications.” As we reported Saturday, the board quickly began discussing his return under pressure from investors and the threat of a mass employee walkout.
On Saturday, the remaining board members missed a 5PM PT deadline set by Altman’s camp to resign and reinstate him alongside fellow co-founder Greg Brockman or face a slew of staff resignations. After the deadline passed, droves of OpenAI employees started posting their support for Altman on social media.
Altman returned to OpenAI’s office on Sunday saying it would be the “first and last time” he wore a guest badge, implying that he would either return as CEO or not set foot in the building again. Another deadline to reach a truce by 5 PM on Sunday was missed.
OpenAI’s board, which oversees the nonprofit parent company, consists of chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, former GeoSim Systems CEO Tasha McCauley, and Helen Toner, the director of strategy at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology. Sutskever, one of the most prominent AI researchers in the world, played the leading role in ousting Altman.
Naming Shear as the CEO of the most high-profile AI company in the world is a surprise, given that he isn’t seen as a leader in the space. Back in March, he left Twitch right before a significant round of layoffs. Twitch saw another round of layoffs in October. Amazon bought the live streaming service for $1 billion in 2014.
OpenAI’s profile has skyrocketed since the launch of ChatGPT barely a year ago. Earlier this month, Altman announced that it has over 100 million weekly users, making it one of the fastest growing services of all time.
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