Sam Altman’s exit casts uncertainty over OpenAI’s $86 bn valuation

Interim leadership takes charge 
Sam Altman’s exit casts uncertainty over OpenAI’s $86 bn valuation
Sam Altman

A planned sale of OpenAI employee shares that would value the startup at about $86 billion on paper hangs in the balance after the sudden firing of CEO Sam Altman and a slew of top executive departures, the Information recently reported.

Citing an individual familiar with the situation, the report stated that the tender offer, led by Thrive Capital, is currently in its final stages and was anticipated to conclude as early as next month. Although the offer has not yet been finalized, it was reported to be nearing completion.

The news comes following the board’s decision to terminate Altman on Friday 17 November.

As part of the management reorganization, Greg Brockman, co-founder and president of OpenAI, resigned from the company after stepping down from his position as chairman of the board.

OpenAI, supported by substantial funding from Microsoft, initiated the generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) trend in November of last year with the launch of ChatGPT.

Taking to the X platform, previously known as Twitter, Altman wrote: “I loved my time at openai. it was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit. most of all i loved working with such talented people. will have more to say about what’s next later.”

Read more: UAE’s G42, OpenAI powering state-of-the-art AI solutions in UAE and beyond

Mira Murati assumes interim leadership

Taking over on an interim basis in lieu of Altman is Mira Murati, a relatively lesser-known figure in the industry.

Murati, who had been working behind the scenes while Altman led the rapidly growing company, has now been thrust into the spotlight during a critical period when the competition in the field of GenAI is intensifying.

Hailing from Albania, Murati secured a high school scholarship in Canada before enrolling at Dartmouth College. In 2012, she successfully completed her studies, earning a degree in mechanical engineering.

In 2013, Murati’s career took off when she joined Tesla, under the leadership of CEO Elon Musk. During her time there, she played a significant role in the development of various projects, including the dual-motor Model S, the Model X Sport Utility Vehicle, and Autopilot, Tesla’s AI-driven driving software.

Following her tenure at Tesla, Murati transitioned to Leap Motion, a startup specializing in the creation of a computer input device that enables hand and finger gestures. 

In 2018, Ms. Murati became a part of OpenAI, driven by her firm belief that GenAI would be a technology of utmost significance. During her career at OpenAI, she has played a pivotal role in the development and dissemination of ChatGPT and Dall-E, the text-to-image models developed by the company.

Given her extensive experience in AI governance, policy, and deep engagement with all aspects of the company, the board believes she is exceptionally qualified for the position.

Murati’s accomplishments have earned her recognition, including being named in the Time 100 Next list for 2023. Microsoft chairman and CEO, Satya Nadella, lauded her impressive career as a technology industry leader.


France’s warm welcome to Sam Altman

In the aftermath of the resignation, French Minister Delegate for Digital Affairs Jean-Noël Barrot extended an invitation to Sam Altman to join him in France.

“On behalf of France, I extend a warm welcome to Sam Altman and his team. Their exceptional talents would be highly valued as we expedite the advancement of AI for the benefit of the public,” Barrow expressed in a statement on X.

This invitation coincides with a significant announcement concerning AI development in France. Chief executives Xavier Niel and Rodolphe Saadé revealed on Friday the establishment of a laboratory named “Kyutai” in Paris.

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