In a classic public relations move of trying to bury negative news on a late Friday afternoon, OpenAI says that Atlman’s departure “follows a deliberate 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 board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI,” the company adds.
OpenAI’s board of directors has named the company’s chief technology officer (CTO) Mira Murati as its interim CEO, and a search process is underway to identify a permanent successor.
Murati has been part of OpenAI’s leadership team for five years and has played what the company calls a “critical role” in developing OpenAI’s technologies.
“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,” writes OpenAI.
The company also describes Murati as “uniquely qualified” for the role of interim CEO and expects her transition to CEO to be “seamless.”
It is unclear if Murati will be considered for the role of permanent CEO or if she will move to a different position, perhaps back to CTO, once Atlman’s permanent replacement has been determined.
OpenAI’s board of directors released the following statement concerning the leadership changes at the company:
OpenAI was deliberately structured to advance our mission: to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all humanity. The board remains fully committed to serving this mission. We are grateful for Sam’s many contributions to the founding and growth of OpenAI. At the same time, we believe new leadership is necessary as we move forward. As the leader of the company’s research, product, and safety functions, Mira is exceptionally qualified to step into the role of interim CEO. We have the utmost confidence in her ability to lead OpenAI during this transition period.
The tech company’s board includes chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, independent directors Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, technology entrepreneur Tasha McCauley, and Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology’s Helen Toner.
Alongside Atlman’s departure, Greg Brockman has also stepped down as board chairman but will remain at OpenAI, reporting to the CEO.
The news is quite sudden. In its reporting, The Verge notes that not only has Altman been the prominent public face of OpenAI, but he led the OpenAI’s DevDay conference only last week. Altman also spoke at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in San Francisco yesterday. The fact that Altman spoke at a major event on behalf of OpenAI raises some questions about precisely how long the board’s “deliberate review process” was in the works.