OpenAI to name ex-Twitch chief Emmett Shear as new boss

Sacked Sam Altman joining Microsoft

November 20, 2023

WASHINGTON — OpenAI is reportedly set to name Emmett Shear as its interim chief executive just 48 hours after the chaotic firing of boss and co-founder, Sam Altman.

The board dismissed Altman on Friday, saying it had lost confidence in him, and named OpenAI's chief technology officer, Mira Murati, as its interim chief executive.

But now Shear appears set to be the latest boss of the company.

Altman helped launch the firm which created the popular ChatGPT bot.

There was speculation he could return, reportedly following a backlash from staff and investors.

But on Sunday evening, OpenAI's board said it "firmly stands by its decision as the only path to advance and defend the mission of OpenAI," according to an internal memo, seen by The New York Times.

On Monday, Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella announced on X, formerly Twitter, that Altman and Greg Brockman -- another co-founder who quit on Friday as the company's president -- would be joining Microsoft to lead "a new advanced AI research team".

Nadella also appeared to confirm Shear's appointment as OpenAI's chief executive, writing: "We look forward to getting to know Emmett Shear and OAI's new leadership team and working with them."

The BBC has contacted Shear and OpenAI for comment.

Shear is the former boss and co-founder of video streaming service Twitch. The memo to OpenAI's staff said he has a "unique mix of skills, expertise and relationships that will drive OpenAI forward".

On Friday, when OpenAI announced it was firing Altman, it accused him of not being "consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities".

The board did not specify what he is alleged to have not been candid about.

Altman is seen as one of the most influential figures in the fast-growing generative AI space and his sacking sent shockwaves across the industry.

His ousting sparked an outpouring of support from Silicon Valley bosses, including former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt who called Altman "a hero of mine" and said that he had "changed our collective world forever".

However, whatever the board was so alarmed about on Friday has perhaps been overtaken by the global reaction to its decision. There may also have been fears of Altman setting up a rival company and taking OpenAI's top talent with him.

The 38-year-old had posted a photo of himself at OpenAI's headquarters following his dismissal.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, he is pictured holding a guest ID pass and comments: "First and last time i ever wear one of these".

According to tech news site The Information, Altman and Brockman were invited to the firm's San Francisco headquarters for talks on Sunday.

Reports this weekend suggested his sacking had angered current and former employees who were worried it might affect an upcoming $86bn (£69bn) share sale. There was also believed to be unrest within OpenAI's major investors -- which include Microsoft.

The company also uses OpenAI's technology into its applications, and Nadella said: "We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI."

OpenAI is widely seen to be a company at its peak, with lucrative investment pouring in, and ChatGPT -- which was launched almost a year ago -- is used by millions.

Altman has been the face of the firm's rise. More than that, he is seen by many as the face of the industry more widely.

He testified before a US Congressional hearing to discuss the opportunities and risks created by the new technology and also appeared at the world's first AI Safety Summit in the UK at the beginning of November. — BBC

November 20, 2023
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