Sam Altman claims harmony at OpenAI as investors, employees revolt over his firing

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By Dan Sears

Sam Altman insisted Monday that he and OpenAI were “still one team” with “one mission” — even as employees and key investors alike threatened to bolt from the embattled AI startup after the board’s shocking move to oust him from the company.

Altman – who is now slated to head a new AI unit at Microsoft – claimed a unified front despite an open letter in which nearly all of OpenAI’s 770 employees said they will quit the company unless its entire board resigns, and Altman and fellow co-founder Greg Brockman are reinstated.

“We are all going to work together some way or other, and I’m so excited,” Altman said.

“[Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella] and my top priority remains to ensure OpenAI continues to thrive, we are committed to fully providing continuity of operations to our partners and customers. The OpenAI/Microsoft partnership makes this very doable,” he added.

Altman’s remarks were met with a degree of skepticism given the obvious turmoil that emerged after one of the most unexpected and stunning coup attempts in Silicon Valley’s history.

The board announced late Friday that it “no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI” because Altman was “not consistently candid in his communications.”

His firing blindsided key partners, including investment firms like Thrive Capital and Khosla Ventures as well as Microsoft, which found out only minutes before it was announced despite committing more than $13 billion to OpenAI’s operations.

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Investor Vinod Khosla lashed out at OpenAI’s board in a scorching column for The Information, writing that its members had made a “grave miscalculation” and “set back the promise of artificial intelligence.”

Sam Altman said OpenAI will still operate as “one team.”

“Every problem has a solution,” said Thrive Capital founder Josh Kushner, whose firm was set to be the primary buyer in a planned OpenAI share sale that was expected to value the company at approximately $86 billion and close by the end of the year.

With the fight over OpenAI’s future growing more bizarre by the hour, speculation has mounted on the private market that the planned share sale is doomed.

Ken Smythe of private capital advisory Next Round Capital told The Post that OpenAI’s fundraising plans are likely over, given the behind-the-scenes chaos.

As of Monday, some key investors “were considering writing down the value of their OpenAI holdings to zero,” Bloomberg reported, citing a source familiar with the matter. The outlet noted the possible move “seemed designed to pressure the board to resign and bring Altman back.”

Satya Nadella

Altman’s exit was “a material change in circumstances” that placed Thrive’s participation in the share sale in doubt, though the sale could still happen if Altman was once again named CEO of OpenAI, a source told the Financial Times.

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Thrive did not immediately return The Post’s request for comment.

Despite public remarks indicating he has moved on, Altman himself has reportedly yet to close the door on a return to his old role as OpenAI CEO – with sources telling The Verge that he and Brockman were still open to a comeback on the condition that all remaining board members agreed to resign.

Sources told the outlet that Altman’s comment about “work[ing] together some way or other” was “meant to indicate that the fight continues.”

On the other hand, Microsoft has emerged as a huge winner after securing the services of Altman – and likely a major chunk of OpenAI’s workforce – at a fraction of the valuation it would have drawn as recently as last week.

Altman himself has reportedly yet to close the door on a return to his old role as OpenAI CEO – with sources telling The Verge that he and Greg Brockman, above, were still open to a comeback.
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“Microsoft just pulled off one of the biggest coups in recent history in not only acquiring OpenAI’s tech but also its people in 48 hours,” Smythe said.

Nadella said that Altman and Brockman “will be joining Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team.”

“We look forward to moving quickly to provide them with the resources needed for their success,” Nadella said. He added that Microsoft remained “committed to our partnership with OpenAI and [has] confidence in our product roadmap.”

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In their scathing open letter, the OpenAI staffers slammed the board for lacking “competence, judgement and care for our mission and employees” and said “Microsoft has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAI employees at this new subsidiary” should they decide to quit.

OpenAI’s board has named Emmett Shear, the co-founder of the popular video game streaming platform Twitch, as its interim CEO.

The workers demanded that OpenAI appoint two new lead independent directors and floated former Twitter board chairman Bret Taylor and former US Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) – who departed OpenAI’s board earlier this year – as potential options.

For now, OpenAI’s board has named Emmett Shear, the co-founder of the popular video game streaming platform Twitch, as its interim CEO.

Shear has already scrambled to reassure the company’s employees and investors. In a lengthy statement posted to X, Shear pledged to reform the company’s leadership team and conduct an independent probe into the circumstances that led to Altman’s unexpected exit.

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