Two top OpenAI executives, Greg Brockman and Sam Altman, who departed the company following a contentious board meeting on Friday, are reportedly having new conversations with board members regarding their potential return to the artificial intelligence start-up, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.
The talks come after Mr Altman, 38, was fired as CEO of OpenAI, sparking a public outcry. Since then, six people with knowledge of the situation said, OpenAI’s investors and Mr. Altman’s supporters have put pressure on the startup’s board members to reinstate Mr. Altman. Since the conversations are private, they only talked on the condition of anonymity.
According to one of the people, Microsoft was spearheading the pressure campaign, having made a $13 billion investment in OpenAI. According to people with knowledge of the situation, investors in OpenAI who have voiced support for Mr. Altman’s reinstatement were also inclined to contribute if he founded a new business, something he started talking about almost immediately after being fired.
According to the people, there is no assurance that Mr. Altman or Mr. Brockman will be given back their jobs at OpenAI. Due to OpenAI’s distinct organisational structure, which sees it run as a nonprofit with a board that can regulate the subsidiary’s operations where its artificial intelligence work is conducted, investors in the company have no formal say over who runs the start-up or what happens to it.
Thrive Capital, Microsoft, and OpenAI all declined to comment. The board of OpenAI was in discussions with Mr. Altman regarding a possible return to the company, according to an earlier report from The Verge.
The recent developments in the rapidly unfolding drama at what is arguably the most prominent artificial intelligence company globally, included discussions between Mr. Altman, Mr. Brockman, and the board of OpenAI.
The San Francisco startup gained notoriety last year by showcasing the capabilities of artificial intelligence with the release of the chatbotChatGPT. The founder of OpenAI, Mr. Altman, quickly rose to prominence as the industry’s face as Google, Meta, and other behemoths competed to lead in artificial intelligence. But on Friday, Mr Altman’s position as CEO was abruptly terminated by OpenAI’s board, citing “his not consistently candid in his communications with the board.” The board didn’t go into detail.
According to Mr. Brockman, Mr. Altman was fired right away after being invited to participate in a video conference with the OpenAI board on Friday at noon. Despite serving as the company’s board chairman, Mr. Brockman claimed he was not a
Prior to Mr. Brockman’s departure and Mr. Altman’s forced resignation, OpenAI had six board members. The other four are computer scientist and entrepreneur Tasha McCauley; director of strategy at Georgetown’s Centre for Security and Emerging Technology Helen Toner; CEO of Quora, Adam D’Angelo; and founder of OpenAI, Ilya Sutskever.
Tensions at OpenAI had been growing prior to Mr. Altman’s dismissal as the company’s notoriety grew. Specifically, according to three people familiar with his thinking, Mr. Sutskever, a well-known A.I. researcher, had grown more concerned that Mr. Altman was not giving enough thought to the risk that OpenAI’s technology might pose. In addition, Mr. Sutskever took issue with what he perceived to be a smaller role within the organisation.
The firing of Mr. Altman brought to light a long-standing divide in the artificial intelligence community between those who think AI represents the greatest commercial opportunity in a generation and others who think it could be risky to move too quickly.
In the tech sector, where Mr. Altman is well-known for both OpenAI and his tenure as head of Silicon Valley start-up incubator Y Combinator, his dismissal also created a stir. The news of Mr. Altman’s departure did not reach many of OpenAI’s investors, such as Microsoft, Thrive Capital, and Sequoia Capital, until just a minute before it was made public.
According to three people with knowledge of the matter, by Friday night, Mr. Altman and Mr. Brockman were rushing to launch a new artificial intelligence company. They also thought about which workers from OpenAI would accompany them. In the past 48 hours, at least three more OpenAI staff members have quit.
Taking a break, Mr. Altman made fun of OpenAI’s board on social media by joking that he would start “going off,” or being open about the situation.
Tech companies also flocked to endorse Mr. Altman and made suggestions that they would fund his next project.
Alfred Lin expressed his excitement on X for “the next world-changing company” that Mr. Altman and Mr. Brockman would create. Sequoia Capital is a venture capital firm that also invested in OpenAI and Mr. Altman’s first start-up, Loopt. The former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, wrote on social media, “I’m excited to see what he does next.”
In recent months, Mr. Altman, who was still in charge of OpenAI, had presented a number of new project ideas to potential backers and investors. Mr. Altman discussed AI-related projects last month while on a fundraising trip in the Middle East. One of the plans he mentioned was to create custom chips for AI that would rival Nvidia.
Mr Altman also discussed investing in a project to develop an artificial intelligence gadget with former Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive, with Masayoshi Son, the billionaire founder and CEO of SoftBank.
However, by Saturday afternoon, Mr. Brockman and Mr. Altman were also discussing a return with the OpenAI.