SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 03: OpenAI Co-Founder & CEO Sam Altman speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2019 at Moscone Convention Center on October 03, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

In a move that could be a significant one in the AI realm — moe specifically the rapidly advancing generative AI sector — OpenAI board has ousted Sam Altman as the company’s CEO.

The company confirmed that Altman has been fired as the CEO, and will be replaced on an interim basis by Mira Murati, who is currently serving as OpenAI’s CTO. The Albanian-born Murati has helped develop some of OpenAI’s best-known products. Nonetheless, his abrupt departure comes as a surprise, especially since Altman – who has effectively been the face of OpenAI amidst the renewed focus on AI and generative AI – was still sending regular emails to employees as of late Friday morning.

This begs the question: why would Altman, who has taken OpenAI to new heights over the past year, be removed from his post? That too soon after OpenAI DevDay – the company’s first-ever developer conference – was held. The company, in a blog post on the matter, offers some insight, although it does not elaborate into the matter. “Mr. Altman’s departure follows a deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities. The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.”

Employees within OpenAI reportedly learned of Altman’s exit through public announcements, indicating that the decision was unexpected even internally. An emergency all-hands meeting has been scheduled to address employee concerns and provide transparency on the future direction of the company. For his part, Altman, in a reflective social media post, expressed gratitude for his transformative experience at OpenAI. While providing assurance that he would share more about his future plans later, Altman’s positive acknowledgment of his time at OpenAI hints at a continued commitment to the field of AI.

“I loved my time at openai,” Altman’s post on Friday read. “It was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit. most of all i loved working with such talented people.” Altman added: “Will have more to say about what’s next later.”

Altman’s sacking has already started to have major consequences – Greg Brockman, a co-founder of OpenAI and who served as the chairman of the board, joined Altman in parting ways from OpenAI, resigning as the company’s president. In a post on X, Brockman wrote, “based on today’s news, I quit.”

The success of ChatGPT earned OpenAI a multi-billion-dollar investment from Microsoft, and the tech behemoth confirmed that it will continue to partner with the company. “We have a long-term partnership with OpenAI and Microsoft remains committed to Mira and their team as we bring this next era of AI to our customers,” a spokesperson for Microsoft revealed. Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, announced on X that “We have a long-term agreement with OpenAI with full access to everything we need to deliver on our innovation agenda and an exciting product roadmap; and remain committed to our partnership, and to Mira and the team. Together, we will continue to deliver the meaningful benefits of this technology to the world.

Altman’s tenure as the OpenAI chief saw him become one of the most prominent figures in the world of AI, while ChatGPT and OpenAI both became household names in mere months. OpenAI, in fact, has already entered into a lucrative partnership with Microsoft and was recently in talks to sell employee shares to investors, which would value the firm at $86 billion. Which is why his removal from his post as CEO comes as a total surprise.