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Huge number of OpenAI staff threaten to quit, join Microsoft, unless board resigns

Five young adults walk side by side down a city sidewalk .
A group of people who declined to speak with the media, are seen leaving the complex that houses OpenAI offices along Florida Street in San Francisco on Monday. | Source: Jungho Kim for The Standard

In an open letter Monday morning, 505 of 770 OpenAI employees of the embattled company served notice to its board, threatening to resign en masse and join Microsoft.

In the wake of an unprecedented weekend that began with Friday's sudden ouster of OpenAI CEO Sam Altman by the board and the resignation of President Greg Brockman, frantic but fruitless negotiations followed into late Sunday, ending with the board's naming of former Twitch boss Emmett Shear as CEO.

In response, by early morning, some 72% of OpenAI employees called out the board's actions in a letter, saying in part that "despite many requests for specific facts for your allegations, you have never provided any written evidence."

A person wearing a yellow backpack enters a large gated entrance with the street numbers 555 and 575 on the posts
A person enters the building complex that houses OpenAI at 555-575 Florida St. in San Francisco on Monday. | Source: Jungho Kim for The Standard

"Your actions have made it obvious that you are incapable of overseeing OpenAI," the final section of the letter begins, written in bold type.

The letter closes by saying, "We, the undersigned, may choose to resign from OpenAI and join the newly announced Microsoft subsidiary run by Sam Altman and Greg Brockman. Microsoft has assured us there are positions for all OpenAI employees at this new subsidiary should we choose to join."

READ MORE: How OpenAI CEO Sam Altman Was Fired by Rival Board Members

OpenAI board member Ilya Sutskever has signed the letter demanding the board resign. Earlier Monday morning, he took to X, denouncing his own participation in the removal of Altman and Brockman.

"I deeply regret my participation in the board's actions," wrote Sutskever on X, formerly known as Twitter. "I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we've built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company."

By 8:12 a.m., OpenAI staffer Lilian Weng posted to social media that "about 650 / 770" had signed the open letter, with the first 500 signing within two hours.

By 9:39 a.m., The Information's Amir Efrati said almost 700 employees had signed the open letter.

Just before 11 a.m., The Verge reported Altman is still trying to get back into OpenAI as his new job at Microsoft "isn't a done deal."

By noon, the number of employees had reached 715, according to one OpenAI engineer's tweet calling the level of support "shocking."

As of 1:30 p.m., a tweet from the company's head of sales said the number had risen to 735 or, by another employee's count, over 95% of employees.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

George Kelly can be reached at gkelly@sfstandard.com