OpenAI CEO's ouster was over "breakdown of communications," not "malfeasance" -memo

FILE PHOTO: Sam Altman, CEO of Microsoft-backed OpenAI and ChatGPT creator speaks during a talk at Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv

By Anna Tong

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman's firing was over a "breakdown in communication between Sam and the board," and not "malfeasance or anything related to our financial, business, safety, or security/privacy practices," Chief Operating Officer Brad Lightcap wrote in an internal company memo Saturday morning, viewed by Reuters.

The board of OpenAI, the company behind hit product ChatGPT, on Friday pushed out its high-profile CEO Altman, sending shock waves across the tech industry. The company appointed former chief technology officer Mira Murati as interim CEO.

The firing came as a surprise to Altman, and also blindsided many employees who discovered the abrupt management change from the company's public facing blog, according to an X post from Greg Brockman, the former OpenAI president and co-founder. Brockman quit shortly after Altman was fired. Another senior researcher, Szymon Sidor, confirmed to Reuters that he had quit as well.

"Team - after yesterday’s announcement, which took us all by surprise, we have had multiple conversations with the board to try to better understand the reasons and process behind their decision. These discussions, and options regarding our path forward, are ongoing this morning," Lightcap wrote in the memo.

"We can say definitively that the board’s decision was not made in response to malfeasance or anything related to our financial, business, safety, or security/privacy practices," he wrote. "This was a breakdown in communication between Sam and the board."

"We still share your concerns about how the process has been handled, are working to resolve the situation," he added in the note. "Our collective responsibility right now is to our teammates, partners, users, customers, and the broader world who shares our vision of broadly beneficial AGI."

(Reporting by Anna Tong in San Francisco; editing by Kenneth Li and Franklin Paul)