Almost the entire staff of OpenAI has now signed a letter threatening to leave and join a new venture led by ousted CEO, Sam Altman. Some 738 out of its around 770 employees, about 95 percent of the company, are now listed on the letter released early this morning.
The letter calls for Altman and his fellow OpenAI cofounder and close associate Greg Brockman to be reinstated, for the board that fired Altman and removed Brockman from his position as chair to resign, and for new board members to be appointed.
Altman was fired from his position as CEO of OpenAI on Friday. Brockman was removed from his position as chair and quit the company hours later in protest over Altman’s removal. The letter released today states that the board had failed to provide written evidence to justify its decision to remove them from their positions.
Over a dramatic weekend that captivated the tech industry, Altman seemed close to regaining his position and visited the company’s headquarters to discuss the possibility. After negotiations broke down, Microsoft announced that Altman and Brockman would join a new subsidiary to work on AI. OpenAI replaced interim CEO Mira Murati, formerly its CTO, with a new interim, Emmett Shear, formerly leader of Amazon’s Twitch streaming service.
When first released this morning the letter from OpenAI staff was signed by a little under 500 people including, remarkably, Ilya Sutskever, the company’s chief scientist and the board member who told Altman he was fired on Friday. “More are signing as they wake up,” a company employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said today after the letter was released. The employee says there has been no further explanation of Altman’s ouster, and little communication from the board.
Some staff employed on work visas tied to OpenAI that make switching companies difficult posted on X today to say they signed the letter anyway. “I’m on a research visa too that I will lose if I resign,” Boris Power, the company’s head of applied research, wrote. “These are details—onwards with the mission! 🚀”
The Verge reported today that Altman was still open to returning to OpenAI if the current directors stepped aside.