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Staff at OpenAI Warn of Possible Departures, Raising Concerns About Company’s Prospects

OpenAI’s future is at risk after the majority of its employees, about 700 out of 770, expressed their intention to leave for Microsoft if the ousted CEO, Sam Altman, is not reinstated at the high-profile artificial intelligence start-up.

One of the board members who was involved in the decision to remove Mr. Altman on Friday, Ilya Sutskever, had a change of heart and signed the letter along with the staff. He also posted on the social media platform X, stating that he regretted his participation in the board’s actions.

Mr. Altman’s removal by the four-member board, citing lack of candidness without specifying the details, led to a series of corporate maneuvers, resulting in Mr. Altman joining Microsoft for a new A.I. project. Microsoft, which has a $13 billion investment in OpenAI, effectively has a 49 percent stake in the company.

The letter from the staff, demanding Mr. Altman’s reinstatement, mentioned that Microsoft had assured OpenAI employees of positions in its new A.I. subsidiary if they chose to join. OpenAI and Microsoft declined to comment on the matter. Emmett Shear, the interim CEO appointed by the OpenAI board, was unavailable for comment due to another call.

This turmoil has raised concerns about the future of one of the fastest-growing companies in Silicon Valley. OpenAI’s technology has played a vital role in the emergence of numerous startups, which are now worried about their future prospects.

In response to the situation, Mr. Shear announced plans to hire an independent investigator to review the events leading up to and following Mr. Altman’s dismissal, and to gather insights from employees, partners, and investors to inform the rebuilding of the company’s leadership team.

However, Mr. Shear indicated that achieving significant progress might take longer than a month. He also had a conversation with Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, who expressed their commitment to OpenAI and its mission.

Despite the uncertainty, Microsoft reiterated its commitment to continue working with OpenAI to sell products and services based on its technologies.

In a surprising turn of events, a co-founder and chief scientist of OpenAI, Ilya Sutskever, expressed regret for his involvement in the board’s decision, indicating his commitment to reuniting the company. Several key OpenAI employees have already joined Microsoft’s new A.I. subsidiary, following Mr. Altman. This includes Greg Brockman, the OpenAI president, along with three OpenAI researchers.

The upheaval has caused distress among OpenAI staff, with employees privately discussing their next steps and expressing dissatisfaction with the sudden changes. Mr. Shear’s efforts to gain their loyalty as CEO were met with some resistance, with most employees skipping an introductory video call on Sunday night.

OpenAI’s future is uncertain, especially with the possibility of most employees leaving for Microsoft. This could create challenges for the start-up in developing the next generation of A.I. technologies.

The situation has prompted concerns among businesses that rely on OpenAI’s technologies, with some considering alternative options. Mr. Altman and Mr. Nadella have assured partners and customers of OpenAI’s continuity of operations, signaling their commitment to ensuring the company’s continued success.

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