The board of OpenAI is currently in discussions with Sam Altman to reinstate him as the CEO of the artificial intelligence (AI) company, following his sudden dismissal on Friday (17 Nov), according to sources familiar with the matter.
Altman, who was terminated without prior notice, is reportedly “ambivalent” about returning and is seeking significant governance changes within the organization.
Sources close to Altman reveal that there was an initial agreement in principle for the board to resign, allowing both Altman and Greg Brockman, former board chairman and OpenAI’s president, to return.
However, the board’s commitment to this agreement has wavered, missing a crucial 5 PM PT deadline, leading to potential resignations from numerous OpenAI staff members.
Altman’s prompt engagement in talks with the company just a day after his dismissal indicates a state of upheaval within OpenAI in his absence.
Brockman resigned shortly after Altman’s removal, and both have been exploring the possibility of starting a new venture, with several senior researchers reportedly following suit.
Investors, including Microsoft, Tiger Global, and Thrive Capital, are reportedly advocating for Sam Altman’s return as OpenAI’s CEO, one day after his ousting, according to a source, who asked not to be named because discussions are confidential.
Microsoft, OpenAI’s primary investor, affirmed commitment after Altman’s firing, but other investors were not consulted about his removal. Altman’s pivotal role raises uncertainties amid industry competition.
Sequoia Capital, another major investor, has shown support for Altman and Brockman, indicating willingness to back their return or support the creation of a new startup. Microsoft has been informed of Sequoia’s stance in favor of reinstating Altman and Brockman.
OpenAI’s announcement of Altman’s firing and the interim appointment of technology chief Mira Murati sent shockwaves across Silicon Valley.
The company, renowned for its ChatGPT chatbot, has attracted substantial investment, with talks of a potential US$86 billion valuation for employee shares.
The current OpenAI board, consisting of chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, former GeoSim Systems CEO Tasha McCauley, and Helen Toner, faces scrutiny amidst the leadership crisis. Unlike traditional companies, the board’s mission is to ensure the creation of “broadly beneficial” artificial general intelligence (AGI), without a focus on maximizing shareholder value.
Notably, sources suggest that Ilya Sutskever played a pivotal role in Altman’s ousting, hinting at a power struggle between the research and product sides of the company.
A spokesperson for OpenAI declined to comment on Altman’s potential return, while a Microsoft spokesperson also refrained from providing a statement.