Even for a region accustomed to tremors, the news of Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, being unceremoniously ousted from the company was like an event off the Richter scale. His exit was announced in a terse press release, along with Greg Brockman’s demotion from the chairman of the board. This sent shockwaves across Silicon Valley and the entire technology ecosystem. The board named CTO Mira Murati as the interim chief executive.
Like everyone else, I found the news hard to believe. Sam Altman fired? How could Altman, the renowned face of this high-profile company, be out? Just a day or two ago, he was mingling with leaders from APEC, taking swipes at rivals at Grok and Google. Altman has been the man since OpenAI released ChatGPT a year ago, marking it as the most interesting development in Silicon Valley since the iPhone and Facebook.
Throughout the afternoon, details emerged in drips and drabs. Two details stood out: investors in the company had no prior knowledge of Altman’s firing. Microsoft, a major backer of OpenAI (to the tune of $13 billion,) received only a 60-second heads-up, forcing CEO Satya Nadella to hastily release a short statement: