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OpenAI’s C-suite shakeup continues with two new appointments as Apple collab is unveiled

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By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

June 10, 2024 | 6 min read

Meta alumus Kevin Weil joins as chief product officer and ex-Square exec Sarah Friar is the company’s first-ever chief financial officer.

OpenAI logo on mobile screen

OpenAI welcomes two new executive leaders this week / Unsplash

ChatGPT parent OpenAI on Monday announced two new appointments to its executive team.

Sarah Friar, former CEO of Nextdoor and CFO of Square, will join the company as its first chief financial officer.

“I’m honored to join a team that is uniquely talented and mission-focused,” Friar said. “My goal is to help OpenAI continue excelling at what it does best – producing top-tier research and collaborating to maximize the benefits of AI tools for everyone.”

Meanwhile, Kevin Weil, who previously held key roles at Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, has been appointed chief product officer. Weil will focus on translating the company’s research into market-ready products for consumers, developers and businesses.

“The product team at OpenAI has set the pace for both breakthrough innovation and thoughtful deployment of AI products,” Weil said. “I am thrilled to be part of the next phase of growth as we continue to safely and responsibly build towards AGI [Artificial General Intelligence].”

The news arrives on the same day as an announcement of a major new partnership between OpenAI and Apple. Following rumors, Apple announced at its annual developer conference on Monday that ChatGPT will now be integrated into Apple tools including Siri and a new writing tool called Rewrite across iOS, iPadOS and macOS.

The new appointments also come amid a broader leadership upheaval at OpenAI. Last month, two key leaders in AI safety and transparency departed – cofounder Ilya Sutskever and researcher Jan Leike. The two headed up the company’s Superalignment team, which focused on mitigating AI risk and creating “scientific and technical breakthroughs to steer and control AI systems much smarter than us,” according to OpenAI. At the time of the initiative’s founding in 2023, the company pledged 20% of its total computing power to the Superalignment project over four years.

Leike said in a thread on X that he had “been disagreeing with OpenAI leadership about the company’s core priorities for quite some time until we finally reached a breaking point.” He explained that his decision to leave the AI company ultimately came down to concerns that “safety culture and processes have taken a backseat to shiny products.”

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The Superalignment team was dissolved following Sutskever’s and Leike’s departures. Leike has since joined Anthropic, widely considered to be among the more safety-conscious market leaders in AI today. (“One Anthropic worker told me he routinely had trouble falling asleep because he was so worried about AI,” wrote The New York Times’ Kevin Roose last summer).

Leike isn’t the only one ringing alarm bells at the AI company. Just last week, a group of current and former OpenAI employees – led by researcher Daniel Kokotajlo, who worked in the company’s governance division – published an open letter flagging concerns about AI safety and risk at the organization and calling for stronger whistleblower protections and transparency.

It was in November of 2023 that OpenAI’s board ousted chief executive Sam Altman – a decision largely believed to be tied to concerns about Altman’s approach to AI safety. Altman was ultimately reinstated as CEO just five days later amid pressure from disgruntled investors and employees, and many of the board members who voted to boot the then 38-year-old executive were promptly replaced. Sutskever, who voted to oust Altman, later apologized and said he regretted his decision. He kept his board seat but has now departed less than seven months later.

The additions of Friar and Weil will be valuable as the organization prepares to launch new products and partnerships.

“Sarah and Kevin bring a depth of experience that will enable OpenAI to scale our operations, set a strategy for the next phase of growth and ensure that our teams have the resources they need to continue to thrive,” Altman said in a statement today.

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