Sam Altman and OpenAI’s embattled board of directors have reportedly opened talks on his potential return to the company – just days after he was ousted as CEO in one of the most shocking coups in Silicon Valley’s history.
Discussions are underway between Altman and one board member, Quora CEO and co-founder Adam D’Angelo, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter.
Some of OpenAI’s major investors are also said to be part of the negotiations and advocating for Altman’s return. The board is reportedly exploring potential ways to end the bizarre saga, including setting up Altman as the head of a transitional board of directors, the report added.
The talks are taking place just one day after nearly all of the ChatGPT maker’s approximately 770 employees staged a mass revolt – threatening in a letter to quit their jobs unless OpenAI’s entire board resigned.
The staffers also want Altman and fellow co-founder Greg Brockman to be restored to their posts and the appointment of two independent board directors.
OpenAI Vice President of Global Affairs Anna Makanju reportedly told staffers that the company was having “intense discussions” to quell the revolt, which could result in a mass employee exodus.
The memo also indicated that OpenAI leaders were in touch with Altman and the board.
One source told Bloomberg that OpenAI’s leaders are trying to solve the crisis before Thanksgiving.
OpenAI and Microsoft did not immediately return requests for comment.
OpenAI’s board blindsided Microsoft and key investors such as Thrive Capital and Khosla Ventures with its announcement of Altman’s firing last Friday.
The announcement prompted frantic negotiations to salvage that once-booming AI firm, with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella brokering the talks.
OpenAI appointed Emmett Shear, the co-founder of video game streaming giant Twitch, to serve as interim CEO in place of Altman.
Investor Vinod Khosla ripped the move in a column for The Information, accusing OpenAI’s board of a “grave miscalculation” that had “set back the promise of artificial intelligence.”
As it currently stands, Altman has taken a new role as head of an AI research unit at Microsoft. Brockman has also joined the tech giant.
Despite the lingering discord, Altman insisted earlier this week that he was prepared to work with OpenAI as “one team” with “one mission” in his new role at Microsoft.
On Monday, Altman cryptically tweeted that everyone would “work together some way or other” in a potential sign that he was open to a comeback.
OpenAI’s current board includes D’Angelo; Tasha McCauley, a tech entreneur; Helen Toner, director of strategy at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology and Ilya Sutskever, an OpenAI co-founder and chief scientist.
Altman was also a board member prior to his dismissal.
Brockman had served as chairman, but was removed from the board last Friday and quit entirely later that night.
Sutskever played a key role in supporting the coup against Altman – only to declare earlier this week that he regretted his involvement.
The board still hasn’t provided a clear explanation as to why Altman was fired. Its initial statement said only that it had lost confidence in Altman after he was not “consistently candid in his communications.”