Sam Altman, the recently ousted CEO of OpenAI, is reportedly in talks to potentially return to the company behind the ChatGPT bot, while also considering the launch of a new artificial intelligence (AI) venture. Following his unexpected firing by the board, Altman has been engaging with OpenAI executives to discuss ways to improve the company’s governance structure. Simultaneously, he has been exploring the possibility of starting a new AI company with core OpenAI researchers and other supporters. The potential for Altman’s return or the establishment of a new venture remains uncertain, according to an anonymous source familiar with the matter. Neither OpenAI nor Altman have responded to requests for comment.
Investors, including Microsoft, OpenAI’s largest backer, are reportedly concerned about the fallout from Altman’s departure and are discussing potential damage control measures. There are fears that without Altman, the company may face a mass exodus of talent. Kholsa Ventures, an early supporter of OpenAI, expressed a desire to see Altman reinstated as CEO but also pledged support for his future endeavors. As OpenAI’s majority owner, Microsoft declined to comment on the situation. It currently holds a 49% stake in the company, with other investors and employees controlling another 49%, and the remaining 2% owned by OpenAI’s nonprofit parent.
The sudden management upheaval has left current and former employees outraged and concerned about the impact it may have on an upcoming $86 billion share sale. OpenAI, a nonprofit co-founded by Elon Musk, gained global attention with the launch of ChatGPT, a generative AI technology that quickly became the world’s fastest-growing software application. Its release triggered a surge of investments and announcements across various industries, seeking to leverage AI for advancements in fields ranging from finance and healthcare to entertainment and media.
Generative AI, powered by extensive data, enables the creation of human-like content, assisting users in tasks such as drafting term papers, completing science homework, and even writing entire novels. Following the introduction of ChatGPT, regulatory bodies scrambled to catch up, with the European Union revising its AI Act and the US initiating AI regulation efforts.
Sources indicate that some shocked employees at OpenAI are considering resigning if Altman is not reinstated by the end of the weekend. Others have expressed support for joining Altman in his potential new venture. Former OpenAI President Greg Brockman, who resigned over Altman’s firing, is expected to join any future endeavor, according to an insider. However, it remains uncertain whether other researchers, such as Szymon Sidor, who have left OpenAI in response to the CEO change, will join Altman’s new venture. Altman has previously engaged in discussions with Jony Ive, Apple’s former design chief, about developing a new AI hardware device, with SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son reportedly involved.
Altman’s removal as CEO was reportedly due to a breakdown in communication, rather than any wrongdoing, according to OpenAI’s Chief Operating Officer Brad Lightcap, as stated in an internal memo. Reports have surfaced regarding discussions between the OpenAI board and Altman regarding his potential return as CEO. Investors are also said to be plotting to reinstate Altman to his former position, as reported by Forbes.
This article was written by Krystal Hu in New York, Anna Tong and Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco, and Gursimran Kaur in Bengaluru, with editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Kenneth Li, and William Mallard.