Open AI Leaders Put In Effort To Reinstate Sam Altman After He Was Fired
Attempts by a faction of OpenAI executives and investors to reinstate Sam Altman as the CEO have hit a roadblock, with negotiations stalling over disagreements on the composition and functions of the board, as per individuals familiar with the talks. While a resolution might be reached soon, discussions are currently in a fluid and ongoing state.
Altman, dismissed from his role on Friday, expresses willingness to return but insists on governance changes, including the removal of current board members, according to undisclosed sources knowledgeable about the private negotiations. He also seeks a statement clearing him of any wrongdoing. Despite initial indications that the board would step down in principle following public backlash, they have yet to formalize this decision. The board has been evaluating potential candidates for new directors.
Key figures within OpenAI, including Chief Strategy Officer Jason Kwon, Interim CEO Mira Murati, and Chief Operating Officer Brad Lightcap, are actively advocating for the board’s resignation and Altman’s reinstatement, according to insiders.
The movement to bring back Altman gained momentum immediately after his dismissal, where board members, led by OpenAI Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever, removed Altman and revoked his director role, citing inconsistency in communication with the board. President Greg Brockman, also overthrown from the board, later resigned in protest.
A longstanding issue dividing the company was Altman’s push to transform OpenAI from a nonprofit organization into a successful business, conflicting with board concerns about the safety of AI tools generating text, images, and code. Until Friday, the board comprised Altman, Brockman, Sutskever, Adam D’Angelo (CEO of Quora Inc.), Tasha McCauley (tech entrepreneur), and Helen Toner (Director of Strategy at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology).
On Sunday, hints emerged that negotiations might be nearing resolution, with Altman and Brockman appearing at OpenAI’s San Francisco headquarters. Altman posted an image on the social site X, wearing a guest badge with a caption alluding to the unique occasion.
A deadline of 5 p.m. San Francisco time has been set for the board to meet Altman’s demands. Succumbing to these demands may require issuing a statement clearing him of wrongdoing, potentially exposing board members to legal vulnerabilities, according to an insider close to the negotiations.
Altman’s leverage in negotiations is strengthened by the loyalty of several employees, particularly top research scientists instrumental in OpenAI’s intellectual property and the development of its groundbreaking ChatGPT chatbot.
Playing a pivotal role in negotiations is Microsoft Corp. CEO Satya Nadella, given Microsoft’s significant investment of $13 billion in OpenAI. Bret Taylor, former co-CEO of Salesforce Inc., is expected to join the new board, with a possible addition from Microsoft, contingent on regulatory considerations.
Regardless of the outcome with OpenAI, Altman remains engaged in other business ventures, including fundraising for a chipmaking startup and an AI-focused hardware device. In a staff memo on Saturday, Lightcap clarified that Altman’s removal was not due to malfeasance, financial issues, or safety practices, assuring employees that multiple conversations with the board were ongoing to understand the decision-making process behind the CEO’s ousting.
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