OpenAI board names Emmett Shear interim CEO as Altman reinstatement attempt fails

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Update: Just before midnight, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella confirmed Shear’s entry as the interim CEO of OpenAI and announced that Sam Altman, Greg Brockman and colleagues leaving OpenAI will join Microsoft to create and lead a new AI research team.

The drama surrounding Sam Altman’s firing as OpenAI CEO on Friday by four of the unusually structured six-member nonprofit OpenAI board has taken another twist and turn: as of Sunday night, the board had voted in former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear as interim CEO of OpenAI, according to The Information.

Shear replaces Mira Murati, whom the board on Friday elevated from OpenAI’s chief technology officer to interim CEO as it began a search for a permanent replacement.

In the 72 hours since, Murati had allegedly allied with Altman and his supporters, among them many OpenAI investors, including, reportedly, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, in a foiled attempt to reinstate Altman as CEO.

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Shear had posted on X (formerly Twitter) as recently as four days ago he agreed that most CEO duties could be automated with AI:

Altman’s demands to return reportedly required the board to resign and absolve him of any wrongdoing, following the firing announcement blog post on OpenAI on Friday, which accused Altman of being “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 OpenAI board still has not made any public statements clarifying what Altman was “not consistently candid” about, or why his dismissal came about so abruptly.

OpenAI’s board is currently made up of OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever — the alleged coup ringleader — independent directors Quora (and its AI aggregator app Poe) CEO Adam D’Angelo, technology entrepreneur Tasha McCauley, and Helen Toner of the Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology.

They were previously accompanied by OpenAI’s co-founder and now former CEO Sam Altman, along with former Open AI president Greg Brockman who served as chairman of the OpenAI board, but was removed from that role at the same time as Altman was fired, and resigned in protest.

Even as Murati, Nadella, and other OpenAI employees and investors had pushed for Altman’s return and invited him back to the offices earlier tonight apparently to negotiate, the OpenAI board had apparently undertaken separate efforts to hire a new permanent chief executive.

Reports said members of the board had reached out to at least two high-profile technology executives about taking the CEO role.

These efforts signaled that some board members remained committed to a break from Altman’s leadership despite calls from key backers and employees to undo his ouster.

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