Contributed to the firing of key OpenAI executive Sam Altman.

More than three months after OpenAI’s board of directors briefly ousted the high-profile artificial intelligence company’s chief executive, Sam Altman, questions remain about why the board took such a dramatic step. What was the reason?

A report from an outside law firm, expected in the coming days, could shed more light on the board’s decision as well as the chaotic five days before Mr. Altman returned to the company.

But as anticipation for the report grows, previously unreported details are emerging about the role that Meera Murthy, OpenAI’s chief technology officer, played in Mr. Altman’s dismissal.

Ms Murthy wrote a private memo to Mr Altman raising questions about his management and sharing her concerns with the board. That move helped prompt the board’s decision to force him out, according to people familiar with the board’s deliberations who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the personnel matter.

Around the same time, OpenAI co-founder and chief scientist Ilya Sotskiver expressed similar concerns, citing Mr. Altman’s history of manipulative behavior, the people said. Both executives described a hot-and-cold relationship with Mr. Altman. Although it was unclear if he cited specific examples, executives said he sometimes created a toxic work environment by freezing out executives who did not support his decisions, the people said.

Ms. Murthy’s interactions with the board offer insight into the problems at OpenAI’s senior level, although both executives publicly supported Mr. Altman’s return to the company.

Wilmer Hale, the investigating law firm, is expected to complete the process soon. The company is expected to announce a new board of directors at the same time, some said. Several directors left the board after Mr. Altman returned to the company in November.

OpenAI spokeswoman Hannah Wong said in a statement that the company’s senior leadership team, led by Ms. Murthy during her time as interim chief executive, unanimously called for Mr. Altman’s return. , as in an open letter signed by 95 percent. Employees of OpenAI.

Ms. Wong said, “The strong support from his team indicates that he is an effective CEO who is open to different perspectives, willing to solve complex challenges, and who has Shows team care,” said Ms Wong. “We await the results of an independent review against the unsubstantiated claims.”

Mr. Altman declined to comment. Mr Sutskewer’s lawyer, Alex Weingarten, said claims he had contacted the board were “plainly false”.

Ms Murthy did not respond to a request for comment. But in a message to OpenAI employees after the article was published, she said she and Mr. Altman had “a strong and productive partnership and I am not shy about sharing direct feedback with him. “

“When individual board members reached out to me directly for feedback about Sam, I provided it — all of the feedback Sam already knew,” and that didn’t mean that, he added. She was “responsible for or supported the actions of the old board.”

(The New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft in December for copyright infringement of news content about AI systems.)

Since November, OpenAI and its investors have scrambled to contain the fallout from the incident, which threatens to cripple one of the tech industry’s most important startups. OpenAI was valued at more than $80 billion in its last financing round.

Most of the more than 700 remaining employees at OpenAI — many of whom threatened to quit if Mr. Altman was fired — hope to put the November events behind them. (Some employees call this period “The Blip”)

But there are others who are hopeful that the Wilmer Hale investigation will provide a full account of the events surrounding Mr. Altman’s firing. It is unclear whether the full report or its summary will be released to the public.

At the time of Mr. Altman’s dismissal, OpenAI’s six-person board included Dr. Sutskewer. Helen Toner, an AI researcher who works at a Georgetown University think tank. Adam D’Angelo, a former Facebook executive; Greg Brockman, Company Co-Founder and President; Tasha McCauley, an adjunct senior management scientist at the RAND Corporation; And Mr. Altman.

As a condition of Mr. Altman’s reinstatement, executives agreed to change OpenAI’s board to include a more diverse and independent set of directors. OpenAI’s six-person board was replaced by an interim board of three: Brett Taylor, a former Salesforce and Facebook executive, joined as chairman of the board to help appoint a new set of directors. . Lawrence H. Summers, former Treasury Secretary, also joined. Mr. D’Angelo remains on board.

In October, Ms. Murthy contacted some board members and expressed concerns about Mr. Altman’s leadership, the people said.

He described what some believed to be Mr. Altman’s playbook, which involved manipulating executives to get what he wanted. At first, Ms. Murthy said, Mr. Altman would tell people what they wanted to hear in order to appease them and support their decisions. People said that if they didn’t go along with his plans or if he took too long to make a decision, he would then try to undermine the credibility of those who challenged him.

Ms. Murthy told the board that she had previously sent Mr. Altman a private memo outlining her concerns about his behavior and had shared some details of the memo with the board, the people said.

Around the same time in October, Dr. Sutskewer contacted board members and expressed similar concerns about Mr. Altman, the people said.

Some board members were concerned that Ms. Murthy and Dr. Sutskewer would leave the company if Mr. Altman’s behavior was not addressed. He also grew concerned that the company would see a talent drain if top lieutenants left.

There were other factors in this decision. Some members were concerned about the creation of the OpenAI Startup Fund, a venture fund started by Mr. Altman. Unlike a typical company investment fund, which is a legal extension of a corporation, Mr. Altman took legal ownership for the OpenAI Fund and raised money from outside limited partners. OpenAI said the structure was temporary, and Mr. Altman would not benefit financially from it.

The OpenAI Fund used the money to invest in other artificial intelligence startups. Some board members were concerned that Mr. Altman used the fund to remove accountability from OpenAI’s nonprofit governance structure. He confronted Mr. Altman last year about his legal ownership and operational control of the fund.

Axios has previously reported on Mr. Altman’s control of the OpenAI fund.

After being contacted by Ms Murthy and Dr Sutskever, the board members began discussing their next steps. By mid-November, the board planned to name Ms. Murthy as interim chief executive while it searches for a new CEO, the people said. The board ousted Mr. Altman on Nov. 17.

In the days that followed, Mr. Altman waged a public battle to regain his position, using a combination of public pressure and powerful allies in Silicon Valley to push for his reinstatement. Most of OpenAI’s 770 employees threatened to quit if he was not reinstalled as chief executive. Ms. Murthy and Dr. Sutskever quickly — and publicly — said they supported Mr. Altman’s return to the company. Some said that Dr. Suitscure has not returned to his regular duties at the company.

After five days of back-and-forth with the public, Mr. Altman returned to his job.

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