Sam Altman is in line for a surprise return as CEO of ChatGPT developer OpenAI, amid pressure from investors to reverse his surprise ouster.
Altman was fired by the company’s board on Friday, citing that he was not “sincere in his communications,” in a move that shocked Silicon Valley.
But OpenAI’s investors — which include Microsoft — are pushing for his reinstatement, according to reports.
On Saturday, Information, a tech news website, reported that OpenAI was “optimistic” it could bring Altman back.
The report cited a memo from the company’s chief strategy officer, Jason Kwon, who told staff that an effort was underway to bring back Altman and other senior colleagues who had stepped down. Altman’s departure was followed by Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s president, and three senior researchers: Jakub Pachocki, Aleksander Mądry and Szymon Sidor.
“We are still working on a solution and we remain optimistic,” Kwon wrote, according to the Information. “By resolution we mean bringing back Sam, Greg, Jakub, Szymon, Aleksander and other colleagues (sorry if I missed you!) and remain the place where people who want to work at AGI [artificial general intelligence] research, safety, products and policy can do their best work.”
Kwon said the California company hoped to update staff further on Sunday. Early Sunday, Altman wrote on X: “I love the openai team so much”.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Altman is considering an exit, but has told shareholders he wants a new board and management structure as a prerequisite while he balances the possibility of starting a new company with former OpenAI colleagues. The WSJ said Altman had to choose between the two options this weekend.
Altman and Apple’s former design chief Jony Ive have reportedly discussed building a new AI hardware unit. SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son was also reported to have been involved in the conversation.
Microsoft, the largest investor in OpenAI, is reportedly backing Altman’s reinstatement, along with co-investor Thrive Capital, a venture capital fund and the second-largest investor. Khosla Ventures, an early backer of OpenAI, wants Altman back at OpenAI but “will support him in what he does next,” the fund’s founder, Vinod Khosla, wrote on X Saturday.
Altman’s firing was due to a “breakdown in communication,” not “misconduct,” CEO Brad Lightcap wrote in another internal company memo Saturday, according to Reuters.
Microsoft, Thrive and openAI have been contacted for comment.