Interim OpenAI CEO Emmett Shear announces investigation as staff revolts against board
Emmett Shear, OpenAI’s new CEO, wants to investigate the happenings at the company that culminated in the removal of former CEO Sam Altman.
In a Nov. 20 statement on social media platform X, Shear outlined a 30-day plan comprising three key objectives: restructuring the management and leadership team, investigating the reasons behind departures, and engaging with relevant company stakeholders.
“Depending on the results everything we learn from these, I will drive changes in the organization — up to and including pushing strongly for significant governance changes if necessary,” Shear said.
‘Altman wasn’t removed because of safety’
Shear further doused speculations that Altman was removed because of safety, saying the board’s “reasoning was completely different from that.”
Several media reports had suggested that his removal was linked to disagreements over artificial intelligence’s safety, especially as OpenAI pursued profits through its ChatGPT product.
However, Shear clarified that the company’s board supported commercializing its “awesome models.”
The OpenAI board appointed Shear after the surprising removal of Altman on Nov. 17. The move has since reverberated across the industry, with many calling for Altman’s reinstatement.
Staff demand board resignation
Over 70% of OpenAI’s workforce demanded the resignation of the company’s board due to its handling of Altman.
A total of 505 out of the 700 employees, including several high-ranking executives, including Mira Murati, Brad Lightcap, Jason Kwon, and Wojciech Zaremba, jointly requested the board’s resignation, citing concerns about their failure in oversight responsibilities.
Notably, the letter was also endorsed by Ilya Sutskever, an OpenAI co-founder who dismissed Altman, indicating the depth of dissatisfaction within the company’s leadership.
The staff members accused the board of jeopardizing the company’s operations and mission by handling Altman’s removal and Greg Brockman’s departure.
The employees further criticized the board’s lack of evidence to support allegations against the former CEO and accused them of “negotiating in bad faith” during discussions with the leadership team.
According to OpenAI staff:
“Leadership worked with you around the clock to find a mutually agreeable outcome. Yet within two days of your initial decision, you again replaced interim CEO Mira Murati against the best interests of the company. You also informed the leadership team that allowing the company to be destroyed “would be consistent with the mission.”
The employees concluded that the board’s actions have made it obvious that they “are incapable of overseeing OpenAl,” adding that they “are unable to work for or with people that lack competence, judgment, and care for our mission and employees.”
Meanwhile, Sutskever has expressed regret for his involvement in the board’s actions, clarifying that his intentions weren’t to harm the company.