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Looks like we may now know which OpenAI execs flagged concerns about Sam Altman before his ouster

Sam Altman and Mira Murati
Sam Altman and Mira Murati.PATRICK T. FALLON/Getty Images
  • Two OpenAI execs raised concerns about Sam Altman before his ouster, The New York Times reported.

  • The outlet reported that the company's chief technology officer, Mira Murati, played a key role.

  • Murati's attorneys have pushed back against the Times' characterization.

While it's still unclear what exactly went down before OpenAI CEO Sam Altman was abruptly ousted from the company in November — only to return in less than a week — more details were published in a March 7 report from The New York Times.

When his exit was announced, the OpenAI board said it "no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI" and that he was "not consistently candid in his communications." Still, the vague explanation only sparked more questions, which continued to linger even after his return.

The New York Times reported on March 7, citing unnamed sources, that the company's chief technology officer, Mira Murati, had raised concerns about Altman's leadership style to board members in October — and to Altman himself in the form of a memo.

The sources told the Times her actions contributed to the board pushing Altman out.

Murati took over for a short-lived stint as interim CEO after Altman's departure.

In a statement to the Times after publication, Murati's lawyer Marc H. Axelbaum said: "The claims that she approached the board in an effort to get Mr. Altman fired last year or supported the board's actions are flat wrong. She was perplexed at the board's decision then, but is not surprised that some former board members are now attempting to shift the blame to her."

The Times reported that she wasn't the only executive unhappy with Altman. Ilya Sutskever, a cofounder and the chief scientist of OpenAI, also raised issues with some members of the board in October, the report said.

Some board members were worried that if they didn't do something about Altman, Sutskever and Murati might leave OpenAI, the Times reported.

The law firm WilmerHale released a report based on its investigation into what happened amid Altman's exit and return.

OpenAI, Murati, and Sutskever didn't immediately respond to requests for comment sent by Business Insider on March 7.

In a statement to the Times, an OpenAI spokesperson said Murati, as well as the rest of the leadership team, requested Altman return as CEO right after his departure.

"The strong support from his team underscores that he is an effective CEO who is open to different points of view, willing to solve complex challenges, and who demonstrates care for his team," the spokesperson, Hannah Wong, told the outlet.

Sutskever's attorney told the outlet it was "categorically false" that he raised concerns to the board.

On Friday, March 8, Murati posted on X a screenshot of a Slack message she sent to OpenAI staff, disputing the Times article and said that she and Altman have a "strong and productive partnership" and that she has "not been shy about sharing feedback with him directly."

Correction: March 8, 2024 — Display copy in an earlier version of this story misstated Sam Altman's role at OpenAI. He's the CEO, not the CTO.

Update: March 8, 2024 — This story was updated with a post from Murati on X denying the Times report.

Update: March 15, 2024 — This story was updated to include comment from Murati's lawyer.

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