In what will likely become “the” technology story of 2023, the past 132 hours at OpenAI have been chaotic, to say the least.

Reddit user “Saffronfan” has done a nice job documenting the events, which I have summarised below for prosperity.

As a reminder, OpenAI became the centre of the technology world in NOV-2022, with the launch of ChatGPT, resulting in an estimated $80 billion valuation.

OpenAI has a complex governance model, where a non-profit board controls a for-profit business. Therefore, OpenAI employees have equity in the for-profit, but the CEO and the directors do not. Investors in the for-profit (e.g., Microsoft) have restrictions on their return and no control rights, which remain with the nonprofit board.

Timeline of Events

Friday (17-NOV-2023)

  • CEO Sam Altman Dismissed: Sam Altman was unexpectedly removed as CEO, surprising the technology and business communities. The reason for his dismissal was unclear, causing dismay and anger among investors. (Tweet that started it all).

  • Co-Founder and President Quits: Following Altman’s departure, CTO Mira Murati was appointed interim CEO, while co-founder Greg Brockman quit. Ilya Sutskever the co-founder and chief scientist is perceived to be at the head of this coup.

  • Support for Altman: Following Altman’s ousting, there was significant support for him from prominent technology figures, investors, and OpenAI staff, with efforts to reinstate him led by Microsoft. He tweeted he loved his time at OpenAI upon being fired.

  • Brockman’s Timeline: Brockman went to Twitter to provide his “official” timeline of events.

Saturday (18-NOV-2023)

  • Board to Reinstate Altman: On Saturday (18-NOV-2023), reports claim the board was in discussion to reinstate Altman as CEO.

  • Board Pressure: Investors and OpenAI employees threatened the board ordering them to resign and reinstate Altman as CEO or they would lose funding and employees respectfully.

  • Resistance to Reinstating Altman: Despite investor pressure, OpenAI’s board seemed to resist reversing their decision. They had until 17:00 on Saturday (18-NOV-2023) to re-appoint Altman and Brockman but they were silent until Sunday.

  • OpenAI Love: Brockman tweeted that he loved his time at OpenAI. He received immense support from OpenAI employees. Additional OpenAI employees were fired with little/no notice.

Sunday (19-NOV-2023)

  • Internal Conflict at OpenAI: The crisis was attributed to differing personalities and ambitions within OpenAI’s leadership, particularly between Altman and Sutskever, a key figure in AI research.

  • Altman Trolls: Sam went to Twitter, stating “First and last time I ever wear one of these”, with a photo of him holding an OpenAI guest badge.

  • New CEO: OpenAI did not reinstate Altman as CEO, instead hiring Emmett Shear former CEO of Twitch.

  • Microsoft’s Involvement: Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella announced that Altman and Brockman would join Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team. And that all OpenAI employees would have a spot in the new division.

Monday (20-NOV-2023)

  • Sutskever Speaks: Sutskever tweeted “I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company.”

  • Microsoft Stock: On the news of Altman and Brockman joining Microsoft, their stock is up almost 2.5% Monday (20-NOV-2023) morning.

  • Shear (OpenAI CEO) Speaks: Shear went to Twitter and shared his thoughts on the whole situation.

  • Employees Exodus: 700 of the 778 employees at OpenAI drafted and signed a letter telling the board to resign or they will quit.

  • Altman Might Return: According to The Verge, Sutskever flipped to support Altman, but two more board members must change their minds for Altman and Brockman to return.

Tuesday (21-NOV-2023)

  • 738 Employees Threatened to Quit: 738 out of the 778 employees at OpenAI signed the letter stating they plan to quit. However, there is speculation of coercion.

  • Shear to Resign: Less than 48 hours into his CEO position Shear announces that he will quit if the board does not provide substantial evidence as to why Altman was fired.

Wednesday (22-NOV-2023)

  • Altman Back: At 01:03 AM Wednesday(22-NOV-2023), OpenAI Tweeted that Altman was returning. They also announced the new board Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summers, and Adam D’Angelo.

  • Altman Tweet: Altman quickly took to Twitter and posted his thoughts on the whole situation.

  • Nadella Tweet: Nadella may have been the biggest winner from these events, with Microsoft asserting their influence over OpenAI. He shared his closing thoughts on Twitter.

  • Shear Tweet: Shear exist as CEO and tweeted “72 very intense hours of work”.

  • Sutskever Tweets: Sutskever tweeted “There exists no sentence in any language that conveys how happy I am”.


Following 132 hours of chaos, OpenAI has arguably gone full circle, with Altman back as CEO. However, the ramifications of these events will live on, with a newly established board and additional details emerging regarding the investment/influence of Microsoft.

The exact reason for the initial dismissal of Altman is still unclear, with rumours of concerns regarding his commercial agenda and/or safety. There is even speculation of an innovation “breakthrough” that members of the board felt needed to be stopped, or at minimum, slowed.

Personally, I am not surprised by this outcome. The complex nature of the OpenAI governance was always destined to create conflict, with the two opposing forces (profit vs. non-profit) becoming increasingly difficult to maintain, especially with large multi-billion dollar investors (e.g., Microsoft). Compounding this issue was the small, immature board governing OpenAI, a group of individuals who are experts in their field, but lack the required expertise/experience to navigate business complexities. The words, “Engineering is easy. People are hard” has never been so true.

With that said, I had not expected the implosion of OpenAI to occur in such a dramatic fashion, especially so publically, with the majority playing out on Twitter.

I expect these events will be studied for years to come and I certainly look forward to watching the inevitable Netflix documentary!