OpenAI co-founder who helped oust Sam Altman leaves the company

Ilya Sutskever, co-Founder and Chief Scientist of OpenAI. (File Photo: Reuters)
Ilya Sutskever, co-Founder and Chief Scientist of OpenAI. (File Photo: Reuters)


Ilya Sutskever, who was the startup’s chief scientist, offers praise for its leaders as he departs.

OpenAI’s chief scientist and co-founder, Ilya Sutskever, is leaving the artificial-intelligence company about six months after he voted to fire Chief Executive Sam Altman only to say he regretted the move days later.

Sutskever and the company’s current leaders praised each other in announcing the news on Tuesday, a sign of ongoing leadership reverberations at OpenAI following Altman’s temporary ouster in November. OpenAI has since replaced nearly all its directors and said it would instill stronger governance practices.

Sutskever, a technical visionary highly regarded in the AI field, said in a post on X that he is working on a new project, but didn’t explain why he is leaving now. He expressed confidence that OpenAI will build artificial intelligence that is safe and beneficial. “The company’s trajectory has been nothing short of miraculous," he said. “It was an honor and a privilege to have worked together, and I will miss everyone dearly."

“Ilya is easily one of the greatest minds of our generation, a guiding light of our field, and a dear friend," Altman wrote in a statement announcing that the company and Sutskever would “part ways." Brockman described Sutskever as an artist, saying: “His vision and gusto are infectious."

Left unmentioned by all three was any reference to Sutskever’s role in firing Altman last year just before Thanksgiving.

Sutskever was among the researchers who showed that deep learning could be deployed to solve pattern-recognition problems at a previously unthinkable level. This sparked further advances in the AI field, ultimately leading to tools like ChatGPT.

He later joined OpenAI as a co-founder and board member with Altman, Brockman and others. His presence helped OpenAI recruit many of the world’s best researchers.

At OpenAI, he focused on developing artificial general intelligence or AGI—systems that could achieve broad, humanlike thinking—and ensuring that the technology is aligned with human values. He often urged OpenAI employees to “feel the AGI."

Jan Leike, another machine-learning researcher who worked closely with Sutskever managing AI risks, is also leaving the company, a person familiar with the matter said.

Last October, Sutskever approached colleagues on the nonprofit board that oversees OpenAI to discuss what he described as Altman’s long-running pattern of pitting employees against one another, The Wall Street Journal reported last year. Among other things, Sutskever was upset that Altman had elevated another AI researcher, Jakub Pachocki.

Sutskever then kick-started a series of discussions that led to the board’s surprise decision to fire Altman, the Journal reported. Sutskever himself delivered the decision to Altman. The board in a statement at the time said Altman had failed to be “consistently candid" and lost their trust without giving specific details.

Within days, Sutskever said he regretted the decision, and Altman was later reinstated.

At the time, OpenAI officials said they hoped Sutskever would return to the company. Sutskever retained a presence on the company’s Slack channel, but he didn’t return to work. Pachocki has been informally overseeing the research division in the past few months.

Altman said Tuesday that Pachocki would officially be OpenAI’s new chief scientist, calling him “easily one of the greatest minds of our generation."

Write to Deepa Seetharaman at

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