Just a day after the shocking firing of OpenAI CEO Sam Altman that sent shock waves through the tech industry, OpenAI’s board is reportedly holding talks with Altman to be reinstated as the company’s leader. , according to The Verge, to indicate people are familiar with words. The outlet said Altman is “ambivalent” about returning and would like major changes to how the company operates.
The New York Times news that the words are part of a pressure campaign from OpenAI investors, led by Microsoft, who have invested $13 billion in the profit arm of OpenAI.
The move will come as a surprise to the council, which it has agreed to multiply intensively from all corners of the tech world for an unexpected and surprising shot at one of the most high-profile leaders of the tech industry. Altman was popular with both Microsoft executives and OpenAI staff, and his firing came as a surprise to employees, who reported it push back against OpenAI Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever’s handling of the move during an all-hands meeting on Friday.
The reactions to Altman suggest that the board may have been surprised by the overwhelming reaction from the world at large—and that it is feeling the aforementioned pressure from investors like Microsoft that have bet big on OpenAI technology.
In the note inside received by Axios on Saturday, OpenAI COO Brad Lightcap hinted at criticism of how the firing was handled and confirmed that Altman was not fired in response to “impropriety or anything related to our money, business, safety, or security/ secret actions.” With no obvious legal errors in play, and with broad support within the company (the current board of directors has not left), the path could be clear for Altman’s return, if he chooses to accept it.
In OpenAI blog post that first announced Altman’s firing on Friday, the committee wrote that Altman was fired because “he was not honest in his communications with the committee, hindering his ability to exercise his responsibilities.” COO Lightcap wrote in his memo on Saturday that the firing was due to “a breakdown in communication between Sam and the board.” The shooting caused OpenAI CEO Greg Brockman to leave the union with Altman on Friday afternoon.
As mentioned earlier, several sources referring to OpenAI insiders suggest that a cultural clash with OpenAI Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever over security issues and the business direction of OpenAI was the main reason for Altman’s firing. Sutskever, a member of the OpenAI board, reportedly made the announcement, which came as a surprise to both Altman and Brockman. Altman was a member of the board, and Brockman served as chairman. There are now four board members.
If Altman returns to OpenAI, we don’t yet know what that will mean for Sutskever’s position at the company, or if others like Brockman and the three senior OpenAI researchers who also resigned will rejoin Altman. According to the New York Times, Altman and Brockman have taken the first planning steps to start a new AI company and have received support commitments from investors, should that happen.
“The best case for the board is that Sam and Greg are back, 4 board members have resigned, and it’s gone for a long time,” speculated venture capitalist Will Hubbard on X. “The worst thing for the board is that Sam and Greg start another company, take all OpenAI’s talent and future funding, and have a lawsuit brought against them.” No plans for a lawsuit have been announced.
But even if the talks with Altman don’t go anywhere, the fact that they’re happening is like another unexpected turn in this very unusual series of events. Expect further updates as details emerge.