May 21, 2024
OpenAI's board may be coming around to Sam Altman returning | TechCrunch


OpenAI’s board of directors is reportedly in talks with Sam Altman, ex-Y Combinator president and an OpenAI co-founder, to return to OpenAI as CEO as soon as this week.

That’s according to Bloomberg, which in a brief this morning — citing sources close to the matter — said that discussions are happening between Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, one current member of the OpenAI board, and Altman — and possibly other board members as well.

Per Bloomberg, the board member (or members) and Altman are discussing a number of possible scenarios that could play out. In one, Altman would return as a director on a transitional board. In another — or perhaps the same — former Salesforce Inc. co-CEO Bret Taylor could serve as a director on a new board. (Taylor’s name was floated as a potential future OpenAI board member in some reporting over the weekend.)

Investors are also in on the talks, Bloomberg reports, with Thrive Capital, Khosla Ventures, Tiger Global Management and Sequoia Capital aggressively pushing for Altman’s return. The hope is to resolve the management crisis before Thanksgiving, so as to give OpenAI employees less uncertainty around the state of the company — and stem the broader bleeding.

Were Altman to return to OpenAI, he’d presumably renege on his acceptance of Microsoft’s offer to head up a new AI research lab at the tech giant with Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s former president, who resigned in protest with Altman on Friday. Altman is said to have demanded “significant” managerial and governance changes at OpenAI as a condition of returning, a demand which many OpenAI backers — including Microsoft — share.

Today’s developments follow a memo sent by OpenAI VP of global affairs Anna Makanju late Monday indicating that OpenAI’s management had been in “intense discussions” with the board, Altman and interim CEO Emmett Shear, who took over from OpenAI CTO Mira Murati, to attempt to re-unify the company.

Shear has reportedly been left in the dark for the most part, indicating to Bloomberg sources that he doesn’t plan to stick around if the board can’t clearly communicate its reasoning for Altman’s abrupt dismissal. Shear previously said in a note to employees Sunday that his first order of business would be to “hire an independent investigator to dig into the entire process leading up to this point and generate a full report.”

It’s been a wild ride at OpenAI since Altman’s firing on Friday.

Over the weekend, OpenAI’s management team and backers began vetting candidates to replace the board for Altman’s possible return. Meanwhile, the board conducted its own CEO search, eventually settling on Shear.

OpenAI’s rank-and-file is in widespread revolt. More than 700 of the company’s roughly 770 employees — including Sutskever, in an apparent change of heart — have signed a letter calling for the board to resign and reinstate Altman. Among others, Salesforce and Microsoft have attempted to use the unrest as a recruitment opportunity, offering matching compensation to any researcher who’s quit OpenAI to join their research teams.



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