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In a move that shocked the tech industry, ChatGPT-maker OpenAI fired CEO Sam Altman on Friday, citing a lack of trust in his leadership. The move was followed by fellow co-founder and former president Greg Brockman’s resignation from his position alongside several other senior researchers at the company. However, it now seems OpenAI’s board now wants Altman back and is reportedly in talks with him regarding a return.
A report from The Verge that cites internal sources claims that Altman is of two minds regarding his return to Open and is demanding organizational changes. According to multiple reports, Altman’s firing was a result of a power struggle with the board led by fellow co-founder and science lead Ilya Sutskever. With Altman gone, OpenAI appointed CTO Mira Murati as interim CEO.
However, it appears that Altman, his fellow employees at OpenAI, and lead investors like Microsoft were all blindsided by the company’s decision, as reported by Axios. Microsoft, which has invested billions of dollars in OpenAI, soon issued a statement noting that it has full trust in the company. However, according to internal sources, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was reportedly furious at the developments unfolding at OpenAI, according to a report from Wired.
The Verge’s Alex Heath wrote on X that Altman, with support from his OpenAI colleagues, gave a deadline that asked the board to resign if the company sought to bring him back. That deadline has since expired, and many employees are expected to tender their resignation.
Investors could be the key to Altman’s return
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It seems that OpenAI’s board is trying to woo Altman back, but not entirely out of its own volition. According to Bloomberg, it’s the key investors like Microsoft that are pushing to reinstate Altman. Investors such as Thrive Capital, Khosla Ventures, Sequoia, and Tiger Global are said to be in talks with Microsoft to push for Altman’s reinstatement. A Forbes report suggests Altman is already discussing plans for a new company with Brockman and other AI researchers in his camp.
More from me & @ashleevance
– active convos happening to reinstate @sama including w/ Microsoft and @satyanadella
– Sam has Satya’s support/confidence whatever he does next
– in one scenario the board could resign
– this is a fast-moving complex negotiation
– Sam is open to… https://t.co/0q2K1w7zkS
— Emily Chang (@emilychangtv) November 18, 2023
Still, it seems the crisis could get ugly. According to internal sources cited by Forbes, the solution entails forcing the current OpenAI leadership to acknowledge the impossibility of their position through a blend of a widespread uprising by senior researchers. More drastic steps like withholding of cloud computing credits from Microsoft and the looming threat of a lawsuit are also said to be on the table.
— Vinod Khosla (@vkhosla) November 19, 2023
As far as an Altman homecoming is concerned, it would mark a major shift at the top of OpenAI’s hierarchy. “In one scenario under consideration, members of the current OpenAI board would step down as soon as this weekend, according to multiple people,” says Bloomberg. Moreover, Microsoft head Nadella has reportedly assured Altman of supporting him in whatever he does next. So far, neither OpenAI nor any of the lead investors — including Microsoft — have issued any public statements regarding their push to put Altman back at the helm of OpenAI.