A timeline of Sam Altman’s firing from OpenAI — and the fallout

In a dramatic turn of events on Friday, ex-Y Combinator president Sam Altman was ousted as CEO of AI startup OpenAI, the company behind viral AI hits like ChatGPT, GPT-4 and DALL-E 3, on the board of directors of OpenAI. Afterward, the company’s longtime president and co-founder, Greg Brockman, resigned — as did three senior OpenAI researchers. And the fall continues.

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It’s a fast-moving situation that we’re still trying to get to the bottom of. No doubt more will become clear over time. To make it easier to follow everything that has happened in the meantime, however, we have put together a timeline; we will do our best to maintain it.

Sam Altman’s firing timeline from OpenAI

November 16

Ilya Sutskever scheduled a call to Altman

According to a post on X (formerly Twitter) from Brockman, Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI’s chief scientist and a co-founder, texted Altman on Thursday night about scheduling a call at noon on Friday.

Murati told of Altman’s firing

Brockman alleges that Mira Murati, OpenAI’s CTO and now interim CEO, announced Thursday night that Altman would be fired.

November 17

Brockman was humbled

Brockman said he received a text from Sutskever just after noon Friday asking for a quick call. After sending the Google Meet link, Brockman was told that he had been removed from the board as chairman “but is important to the company and will retain his role” as president, and that Altman had been fired.

Altman’s firing was made public

OpenAI published a post on its blog informed the executive shake-up. The company’s management team found out shortly after.

All hands meeting

OpenAI held an all-hands meeting Friday afternoon where Sutskever defended Altman’s dismissal. He rejected suggestions that the Altman push was a “hostile takeover,” and MANILA which is necessary to protect OpenAI’s mission of “making AI useful to humanity.”

Microsoft released a statement

Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, a major investor in – and partner in – OpenAI, published a statement about Altman’s firing:

“As you saw at Microsoft Ignite this week, we’re continuing to rapidly innovate for this AI era, with over 100 announcements across the tech stack from AI systems, models and tools on Azure, up to Copilot. Most importantly, we are committed to delivering all of this to our customers while building for the future. We have a long-term agreement with OpenAI with full access to everything needed us to deliver on our innovation agenda and an exciting product roadmap; and remain committed to our partnership, and to Mira and the team. Together, we will continue to deliver the meaningful benefits of this technology in the world.”

Brockman quit

Brockman announced his resignation from OpenAI, citing “current news.” After sending a memo inside, he published the text of X.

Senior OpenAI researchers resign

Three senior OpenAI researchers resigned after Brockman, including research director Jakub Pachocki and head of readiness Aleksander Madry.

November 18

“No … in response to malfeasance”

In an internal memo Obtained by Axios sent Saturday morning, OpenAI COO Brad Lightcap said that yesterday’s announcement “caught (the management team) by surprise” and that management had “many conversations with the board to try to better understand the reasons and process behind their decision.” Discussions continued Saturday morning, according to the memo.

“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,” added Lightcap. “This was a breakdown in communication between Sam and the board … We still share your concerns about how the process was handled, are working to resolve the situation, and will provide updates when we can.”

OpenAI’s funding is at risk

OpenAI’s planned employee share sale that would have valued the startup at about $86 billion could be in jeopardy. The Information, which spoke to three sources previously at the company, reports that they no longer expect the sale – led by Thrive Capital – to happen, or, if it happens, to come with a lower valuation due to the recent turn of events.

Altman is planning a new business

Altman told investors he plans to launch a new business, ACCORDING to Information. Brockman is expected to join the effort — in whatever form that takes.

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