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Altman Won’t Return to OpenAI; Company Names Twitch Co-Founder as Interim CEO, Reports Say

Written by The Standard StaffPublished Nov. 19, 2023 • 10:14pm
A man with blue-framed glasses smiles against a black background.
Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear has been named interim CEO of Open AI, according to media reports on Sunday. | Source: Getty

After two days of negotiations, OpenAI's board stood firm in its decision to fire Sam Altman as CEO, according to media reports.

RELATED: Everyone in Silicon Valley Has an Opinion on OpenAI Leadership, Sam Altman as Reunion Talks Swirl

Despite efforts to bring Altman back after his sudden ouster Friday, the San Francisco artificial intelligence firm decided instead to name Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear as interim CEO, The Information and Forbes reported late Sunday night.

The New York Times late Sunday night quoted an internal OpenAI communique saying the board selected Shear for his "unique mix of skills, expertise and relationships that will drive OpenAI forward."

Shear marks the second interim CEO in as many days for OpenAI, which initially named longtime exec Mira Murati as a temporary replacement for Altman.

Since an OpenAI blog post announcing Altman's departure Friday afternoon, followed soon after by President Greg Brockman quitting the company, the room had been spinning.

A memo to OpenAI employees from Chief Operating Officer Brad Lightcap, obtained Saturday by CNBC, said that Altman’s firing was not related to any misconduct.

“We can say definitively that the board’s decision was not made in response to malfeasance or anything related to our financial, business, safety, or security/privacy practices,” the COO wrote. “This was a breakdown in communication between Sam and the board.” 

Those board members, OpenAI Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever, Quora CEO Adam D'Angelo, ex-GeoSim Systems CEO Tasha McCauley and Helen Toner of Georgetown's Center for Security and Emerging Technology, initiated the split in a pair of conference calls. Altman and Brockman had previously served on the board as well.

Altman and Brockman had been reportedly weighing options in the wake of their exits, including a start of a new firm of their own, a return to OpenAI under different company governance standards, or the departure of key board members unwilling to diverge from strongly held mission perspectives about AI's potential.

On Sunday, The Information reported that other AI companies were seeing some upticks in resume submissions from OpenAI employees seeking new jobs, while Bloomberg reported that Altman had been seeking to raise billions in funding for a new chip venture.

Several OpenAI employees over the weekend took to X/Twitter with cryptic heart emojis. Reporters for the tech publication the Verge interpreted them to hint at support of Altman over the board of directors. The Information followed with word of an invite for Altman and Brockman to visit OpenAI's headquarters as part of a reinstatement push Sunday.

Altman posted a selfie of himself on X Sunday afternoon, apparently making the visit while wearing a lanyard with a guest pass attached, saying, "first and last time i ever wear one of these."

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