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A key OpenAI executive played a pivotal role in the overthrow of Sam Altman| GuyWhoKnowsThings


More than three months after the OpenAI board of directors briefly overthrew Sam AltmanCEO of the prominent artificial intelligence company, questions remain about what exactly led the board of directors to take such a dramatic step.

A report from an outside law firm, which is expected In the coming days, it could shed more light on the board's decision, as well as the chaotic five days leading up to Mr. Altman's return to the company.

But as anticipation for the report grows, previously unreported details are emerging about the role Mira Murati, OpenAI's chief technology officer, played in Altman's ouster.

Murati wrote a private memo to Mr. Altman raising questions about his management and also shared his concerns with the board. That move helped spur the board's decision to oust him, according to people with knowledge of the board's discussions who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of a personnel matter.

Around the same time, Ilya Sutskever, co-founder and chief scientist at OpenAI, raised similar concerns, citing what he characterized as Altman's history of manipulative behavior, the people said. Both executives described a hot and cold relationship with Altman. Although it was unclear whether they offered specific examples, executives said he sometimes created a toxic work environment by excluding executives who did not support his decisions, the people said.

Murati's interactions with the board offer insight into the problems brewing at OpenAI's upper levels, although both executives publicly supported Altman's return to the company.

WilmerHale, the law firm conducting the investigation, is expected to conclude the process imminently. The company is expected to announce a new board of directors at the same time, some of the people said. Several directors left the board after Altman returned to the company in November.

Hannah Wong, a spokesperson for OpenAI, said in a statement that the company's senior leadership team, led by Murati during his tenure as interim CEO, unanimously called for Altman's return, as did an open letter signed by 95 percent. percent of OpenAI Employees.

“The strong support of his team underlines that he is an effective CEO, open to different points of view, willing to solve complex challenges and who demonstrates concern for his team,” Ms Wong said.

Altman declined to comment. Murati did not respond to a request for comment. Sutskever's lawyer said claims that he had addressed the board were “categorically false.”

(The New York Times defendant OpenAI and Microsoft in December for copyright infringement of news content related to AI systems).

Since November, OpenAI and its investors have struggled to contain the fallout from the incident, which threatened to topple one of the tech industry's biggest startups. OpenAI was valued at more than 80 billion dollars in its latest round of financing.

Many of OpenAI's more than 700 remaining employees (many of whom threatened to quit when Altman was fired) hope to put the events of November behind them. (Some employees refer to that period as “The Blip.”)

But there are others who are hopeful that WilmerHale's investigation will provide a thorough explanation of the events surrounding Mr. Altman's firing. It is unclear whether the full report or a synopsis of it will be made public.

At the time of Altman's dismissal, OpenAI's six-person board included Dr. Sutskever; Helen Toner, an AI researcher working at a think tank at Georgetown University; Adam D'Angelo, former Facebook executive; Greg Brockman, co-founder and president of the company; Tasha McCauley, senior associate scientist at the RAND Corporation; and Mr. Altman.

As a condition of Altman's reinstatement, executives agreed to change OpenAI's board of directors to include a more diverse and independent society set of directors. OpenAI's six-person board was reduced to an interim board of three: Bret Taylor, a former Salesforce and Facebook executive, joined as board chairman and helped name a new group of directors. Lawrence H. Summers, former Secretary of the Treasury, also joined. Mr. D'Angelo remains on the board.

In October, Murati approached some board members and expressed concerns about Altman's leadership, the people said.

He described what some considered Altman's playbook, which included manipulating executives to get what he wanted. First, Murati said Altman told people what they wanted to hear to captivate them and support their decisions. If they didn't follow his plans or if it took too long to make a decision, he would try to undermine the credibility of the people who challenged him, the people said.

Mr. Murati told the board that he had previously sent a private memo to Mr. Altman outlining some of his concerns regarding his behavior and shared some details of the memo with the board, the people said.

Around the same time, in October, Dr. Sutskever approached board members and expressed similar concerns about Mr. Altman, the people said.

Some board members were concerned that Ms. Murati and Dr. Sutskever would leave the company if Mr. Altman's behavior was not addressed. They also worried that the company could see an exodus of talent if top lieutenants left.

There were other factors that influenced the decision. Some members were concerned about the creation of the OpenAI Startup Fund, a venture fund started by Altman. Unlike a typical corporate investment fund, which is a legal extension of the corporation, Mr. Altman had legal ownership for the OpenAI fund and raised money from external limited partners.

The OpenAI fund used that money to invest in other AI startups. Some board members were concerned that Altman would use the fund to avoid responsibility for OpenAI's nonprofit governance structure. Last year they confronted Altman about his legal ownership and operational control over the fund.

Axios previously reported on Mr. Altman's control of the OpenAI fund.

Board members began discussing their next steps after Ms. Murati and Dr. Sutskever approached them. In mid-November, the board planned to name Murati as interim chief executive while it conducted a search for a new chief executive, the people said. The board overthrew Mr. Altman on November 17.

In the days that followed, Altman waged a public fight to regain his position, using a combination of public pressure and powerful allies in Silicon Valley to push for his reinstatement. Most of OpenAI's 770 employees threatened to resign if he was not reinstated as CEO. Murati and Sutskever quickly (and publicly) said they supported Altman's return to the company. Dr. Sutskever has not returned to his usual duties at the company, some of the people said.

After five days of public comings and goings, Altman returned to work.


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