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OpenAI’s board of directors has chosen Emmett Shear, co-founder of video streaming service Twitch, as interim chief executive, according to two people briefed on the matter.
The unexpected move is expected to deepen divisions within the company revealed by the firing of co-founder Sam Altman on Friday.
Shear is the second interim appointment in three days, after the board initially replaced Altman with Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati on Friday afternoon, a move that plunged the leading generative artificial intelligence company into crisis .
OpenAI’s major investors, including Microsoft, and dozens of employees rallied to Altman’s side over the weekend in an attempt to reinstate him as chief executive.
On Sunday afternoon, their attempts seemed likely to succeed when Altman made a dramatic return to the company office. Holding up a guest pass, the former boss posted on X: “first and last time wearing one.”
But in a message to staff Sunday evening, co-founder Ilya Sutskever, who remains on the board, announced Shear’s appointment, dashing hopes of Altman’s quick return and raising new questions about the future of the company.
A person with knowledge of the board’s decision to appoint Shear said: “He came very highly recommended by a group of senior Silicon Valley executives.” He understood the mission, he understood that he could have a bad time because the employees are super unhappy.
The nonprofit board, which controls the for-profit company, will remain in place, but neither Altman nor his co-founder Greg Brockman, who also left OpenAI on Friday, will return, according to one of the people knowing the discussions.
It was not immediately clear what would happen to Murati, the OpenAI chief technology officer initially chosen by the board to lead the company.
Alongside Sutskever on the board are independent directors Adam D’Angelo, Quora’s chief executive officer; tech entrepreneur Tasha McCauley; and Helen Toner of the Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology.
Unlike a typical for-profit company, which has fiduciary duties to its shareholders, OpenAI’s board of directors is committed to a charter that is committed to ensuring that AI is developed for the benefit of all humanity.
In announcing the decision to fire Altman on Friday, the board said he had not been “completely candid.” A person with knowledge of the decision said it had become “impossible to supervise” Altman, whose “superpower” was to shape narratives and influence powerful people to achieve his own goals.
“There was no big problem. The board reached the point where they could no longer believe what Sam was telling them,” said the person with direct knowledge of the board’s decision.
Altman’s dismissal follows growing unease about the pace of development and commercialization of the powerful technology OpenAI is building, as well as concerns about Altman’s fundraising for outside projects to the company, including a plan to develop a chip factory with backing from Middle Eastern backers, according to people with knowledge of the dispute.