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 early as this week.
That’s according to Bloomberg, which in a NOTES this morning – citing sources close to the matter – said discussions took place between Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, a current member of the OpenAI board, and Altman – and possibly other members of the board.
According to Bloomberg, the board member (or members) and Altman discussed several possible scenarios that could happen. In one, Altman will return as a director on a transitional board. In another – or perhaps similar – former Salesforce Inc. co-CEO Bret Taylor may serve as a director on the new board. (Taylor’s name was floated as a potential future OpenAI board member in some reporting over the weekend.)
Investors are also in 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, to give OpenAI employees less uncertainty around the state of the company — and prevent wider bleeding.
If Altman returns to OpenAI, it is likely that he will decline to accept Microsoft’s offer to lead a new AI research lab at the tech giant with Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s former president, who resigned in protest along with Altman last Friday. Altman is said to have demanded “significant” changes to OpenAI’s governance and management as a condition of return, a demand shared by many OpenAI supporters – including Microsoft.
Today’s developments follow a memo sent by OpenAI VP of global affairs Anna Makanju late Monday indicating that OpenAI management had “intense discussions” with the board, Altman and interim CEO Emmett Shear, who took over from OpenAI CTO Mira Murati, to try to reunite the company.
Shear was reportedly left largely in the dark, with sources indicating to Bloomberg that he did not plan to stay if the board did not clearly communicate its reasoning for Altman’s sudden dismissal. Shear previously said in a letter to employees on Sunday that his first order of business was to “hire an independent investigator to study the entire process leading up to this point and make a full report.”
It’s been a wild ride for OpenAI since Altman’s firing on Friday.
Over the weekend, OpenAI’s management team and supporters began vetting candidates to replace the board for Altman’s possible return. Meanwhile, the board conducted its own CEO search, which ultimately settled on Shear.
The rank-and-file of OpenAI is a massive uprising. More than 700 of the company’s roughly 770 employees — including Sutskever, in an apparent change of heart — signed a letter calling on the board to resign and reinstate Altman. Among others, Salesforce and Microsoft tried to use the chaos as a recruiting opportunity, offering equal pay to any researcher who quit OpenAI to join their research teams.