Tuesday, March 5

Sam Altman reportedly discussing return to OpenAI with company board

Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, two top OpenAI executives who left the company after a turbulent board meeting Friday, are again talking with board members about returning to the startup of artificial intelligence, said two people with knowledge of the matter.

The discussions follow an outcry after Mr Altman, 38, was removed as chief executive of OpenAI. Since then, OpenAI investors and Mr. Altman’s supporters have pressured the start-up’s board members to bring back Mr. Altman, six people with knowledge of the situation said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions are confidential.

Microsoft, which invested $13 billion in OpenAI, was leading the pressure campaign, one of the sources said. OpenAI investors who expressed support for Mr. Altman’s reinstatement were also willing to invest if he were to start a new company, something he began discussing almost immediately after his forced departure, people with knowledge said. the situation.

There is no guarantee that Mr. Altman or Mr. Brockman will be reinstated at OpenAI, the sources said. Due to OpenAI’s unique structure – it is controlled by a non-profit organization and its board of directors has the power to direct the activities of the subsidiary, where its AI work takes place – investors of the company have no say in what happens to the startup or to whom. leads him.

OpenAI, Microsoft and Thrive Capital declined to comment. The edge A previous report indicated that OpenAI’s board of directors was discussing a possible return to the company with Mr. Altman.

The new discussions between Mr. Altman, Mr. Brockman and the OpenAI board are the latest twist in a rapidly evolving drama at what is perhaps the world’s most high-profile AI company .

The San Francisco startup rose to fame last year when it launched chatbot ChatGPT and demonstrated the power of artificial intelligence. Mr. Altman, one of the founders of OpenAI, quickly became the face of the AI ​​industry as Google, Meta and other giants raced to take the lead in the technology. But on Friday, OpenAI abruptly announced that its board had removed Mr. Altman as chief executive, saying “he was not always candid in his communications with the board.” The board did not provide details.

Mr. Altman was asked to participate in a video meeting with OpenAI’s board of directors at noon on Friday and was immediately fired, Mr. Brockman said. you said. Mr. Brockman said that although he was chairman of the company’s board of directors, he did not attend the meeting. He later announced that he was leaving the company.

OpenAI had six board members before Mr. Altman was forced out and Mr. Brockman left. The other four are Ilya Sutskever, founder of OpenAI; Adam D’Angelo, CEO of Quora, the question-and-answer site; Helen Toner, director of strategy at the Center for Security and Emerging Technologies at Georgetown; and Tasha McCauley, entrepreneur and computer scientist.

Before Mr. Altman’s ouster, tensions were rising within OpenAI as the company’s notoriety soared. In particular, Mr. Sutskever, a respected AI researcher, grew increasingly concerned that OpenAI’s technology could be dangerous and that Mr. Altman was not paying enough attention to that risk, they said. three people close to his thoughts. Mr. Sutskever also objected to what he saw as a diminished role within the company.

Mr. Altman’s firing drew attention to a long-standing divide within the AI ​​community between those who believe AI is the greatest business opportunity of a generation and others who fear that acting too quickly is dangerous.

The ouster also caused waves in the tech industry, where Mr. Altman is well known not only for OpenAI, but also for his years running Y Combinator, the Silicon Valley start-up incubator. Many OpenAI investors, including Microsoft, Thrive Capital and Sequoia Capital, only learned of Mr. Altman’s departure a minute before his departure was announced or after the news became public.

As of Friday evening, Mr. Altman and Mr. Brockman were racing to start a new AI company, three people familiar with the matter said. They also thought about which OpenAI employees would join them. At least three other OpenAI employees have resigned in the past two days.

Mr. Altman took a break from lashing out at the OpenAI board on social media, with a joke threatening to start “speaking out,” or speaking out, about the situation.

Tech investors also rushed to show their support for Mr. Altman and hinted they would back his next venture.

Alfred Lin, an investor at Sequoia Capital, a venture capital firm that invested in OpenAI and Mr. Altman’s first startup, Loopt, posted on world” that Mr. Altman and Mr. Altman…Brockman would build. Eric Schmidt, former chief executive of Google, said: “I can’t wait to see what he does next. »

While still leading OpenAI, Mr. Altman has pitched several ideas for new projects to investors and others in recent months. During a fundraising trip last month to the Middle East, Mr. Altman spoke about AI-related projects, including a project to develop custom AI chips that would compete with the company’s Nvidia chips.

Mr. Altman also spoke with Masayoshi Son, the billionaire CEO and founder of technology conglomerate SoftBank, about investing in an effort to build an AI device with Jony Ive, the former chief design officer at Apple.

But on Saturday afternoon, Mr. Altman and Mr. Brockman were also talking with OpenAI about a return.

Karen Weiss And Tripp Mickle reports contributed.