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In today’s big story, we’re looking at the truth behind OpenAI workers’ threat to leave the startup amid the Sam Altman ouster.
What’s on deck:
But first, show me your best poker face.
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The big story
“It’s not a lie… if you believe it.”
–George Costanza, OpenAI employees (probably)
OpenAI employees threatening to quit during Sam Altman’s ouster was the type of loyalty workers rarely show toward a boss.
In reality, it was a bit of a bluff.
While the entire company signed a letter stating they’d follow Altman to Microsoft if he wasn’t reinstated, no one really wanted to do it, current and former OpenAI staffers told Business Insider’s Kali Hays, Ashley Stewart, and Darius Rafieyan.
It’s not just OpenAI employees who were bending the truth. Microsoft viewed hiring OpenAI’s employees as an absolute last resort, according to insiders.
Part of OpenAI employees’ issue with joining Microsoft was the less-than-stellar impression they had of working for so-called “legacy” tech. OpenAI staffers “see themselves as innovators who are radically changing the world,” a former employee of the startup told BI.
But the real problem was money, as is often the case. A tender offer was right around the corner, giving employees a chance to make a fortune selling existing vested equity to outside investors. The walkout would have spoiled those plans.
News of OpenAI employees’ bluff is the latest crack in the Altman facade.
In the wake of Altman’s ouster-turned-return drama, there was plenty of speculation about the perceived power he now held. (When news of his return broke, I suggested he was “now arguably one of the most untouchable executives in the world.”)
But as BI’s Alistair Barr pointed out, Altman’s public statements in the wake of his return to OpenAI tell a different story. He was adamant OpenAI “will be totally fine without me,” adding that its leadership team “is clearly ready to run the company without me.”
That sentiment, coupled with the revelation that OpenAI employees didn’t truly have unwavering support for Altman, paints the past few weeks’ events in a very different light.
The OpenAI drama also forced companies to make sure they aren’t solely relying on the startup, according to Alistair. The timing isn’t ideal for OpenAI, as bigger tech companies get more aggressive with AI rollouts.
All that’s to say, OpenAI employees might have successfully pulled off a massive bluff, but the rest of the industry now knows their tell.
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In other news
What’s happening today
The Game Awards for video games is tonight in Los Angeles. Games that were nominated include “Resident Evil 4,” “Super Mario Bros. Wonder,” and “Viewfinder.”
Happy birthday, Sara Bareilles. Larry Bird, Terrell Owens, Emily Browning, and Pete Alonso were also born on this day.
Earnings today: Broadcom, Lululemon, Docusign, and other companies.
For your bookmarks
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The Insider Today team: Dan DeFrancesco, senior editor and anchor, in New York City. Diamond Naga Siu, senior reporter, in San Diego. Hallam Bullock, editor, in London. Lisa Ryan, executive editor, in New York.