A new twist to the drama surrounding OpenAI emerged on Tuesday after reports suggested the company’s board is in discussions with ousted co-founder and former CEO Sam Altman about a possible return.
Citing sources with knowledge of the matter, Bloomberg reported discussions are underway between Altman, board member Adam D’Angelo and some of OpenAI’s investors about reinstating the sacked boss.
Little indication was given as to the circumstances behind Altman’s removal from OpenAI, but there was some speculation, later denied by new CEO Emmett Shear, that there were concerns over the safety of his plans to commercialize AI technology.
Following Altman’s departure, company president and co-founder Greg Brockman resigned in protest, and both have since been hired by Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ:MSFT) to lead a new advanced AI research team.
But turmoil at OpenAI remains. Vice President of Global Affairs Anna Makanju sent on Monday a memo to staff informing them that Altman, Shear and the rest of the board are in “intense discussions” to unify the company. This followed threats from the company’s staff of mass resignations if Altman was not reinstated.
Evan Morikawa, engagement manager at OpenAI, tweeted on Monday that 95% of the company’s employees signed a petition for “unity & board ouster” asking the board to resign.
Now 715. I should note that this includes colleagues with tenuous visa situations, a colleague who was literally in the hospital with the birth of their first child, signatories in the air on their way to Thanksgiving break, and many others. The support here was shocking https://t.co/gmR0PVg7Wt
— Evan Morikawa (@E0M) November 20, 2023
Bloomberg’s report suggested Shear was also being kept in the dark, and was also planning to leave if the board couldn’t adequately explain to him the reasons for Altman’s sudden dismissal.
Governance Must Improve
Meanwhile, Microsoft has offered jobs to anyone wishing to leave OpenAI. In an interview on CNBC, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said: “Obviously that depends on the people at OpenAI staying there or coming to Microsoft, so I’m open to both options.”
Although Microsoft is heavily invested in…