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OpenAI’s board has chosen Emmett Shear, co-founder of the video streaming service Twitch, as its interim CEO, according to two people briefed on the matter.
The unexpected move is expected to deepen rifts within the company, which were exposed 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 decision that plunged the leading generative artificial intelligence company into crisis.
OpenAI’s leading investors, including Microsoft and dozens of employees, rallied to Altman’s side over the weekend in an effort to have him reinstated as CEO.
On Sunday afternoon, their attempt appeared to have succeeded when Altman made a dramatic return to the company’s office. With a guest pass, the former boss sent to X: “first and last time I ever wear one”.
But in a message to staff late Sunday night, co-founder Ilya Sutskever, who remains on the board, announced Shear’s appointment, dashing hopes of a quick return for Altman and raising further questions about the company’s future.
A person familiar with the board’s decision to appoint Shear said: “He came really highly recommended by a bunch of senior Silicon Valley people. He understood the mission, he understood that he might have a tough patch on his hands because the employees are super unhappy .”
The nonprofit board that controls the for-profit company remains in place, but neither Altman nor his co-founder Greg Brockman, who also left OpenAI on Friday, is returning, according to one of the people familiar with the discussions.
It was not immediately clear what would happen to Murati, OpenAI’s chief technology officer, who was initially chosen by the board to lead the company.
Joining Sutskever on the board are the independent directors Adam D’Angelo, the CEO of Quora; 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 obligations to shareholders, OpenAI’s board is bound by a charter that commits to ensuring that AI is developed for the benefit of all humanity.
In announcing the decision to fire Altman on Friday, the board claimed he had not been “completely honest”. A person familiar with the decision said it had become “impossible to monitor” Altman, whose “superpower” was shaping narratives and influencing powerful people for his own ends.
“There wasn’t a big problem. The board reached the point where they couldn’t believe what Sam was telling them,” said the person with direct knowledge of the board’s decision.
Altman’s firing followed growing unease over the pace of development and commercialization of the powerful technology OpenAI is building, as well as concerns about Altman fundraising for projects outside the company, including a plan to develop a chip factory with support from Middle Eastern backers, according to the people with knowledge of the dispute.