The recent firing of Sam Altman, co-founder of OpenAI, has caused quite a stir in the tech world. But it appears that Altman’s move to Microsoft may not be as set in stone as initially thought. Multiple sources have revealed that Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman are still open to returning to OpenAI if the board members who fired Altman step aside.
This surprising turn of events has created a complex situation for OpenAI. With the majority of employees ready to leave the company in support of Altman, there is now immense pressure on the board to reconsider their decision. In fact, only two out of the remaining three board members need to change their stance for Altman’s return to become a real possibility.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, in recent interviews with CNBC and Bloomberg TV, expressed his willingness to work with OpenAI and its employees, but also highlighted the need for governance changes within the company. Nadella’s comments shed light on the fact that the fate of Altman and the 700 OpenAI staffers joining Microsoft ultimately lies in the hands of the OpenAI board and management.
The negotiations between Altman, Brockman, and OpenAI’s investors, along with the board, are still ongoing. Sources with direct knowledge of the situation suggest that the hiring announcement by Microsoft was merely a temporary measure to handle the crisis swiftly. Microsoft has chosen to remain tight-lipped about the situation.
The power struggle within OpenAI has intensified since Altman’s dismissal. Nearly all employees are at odds with the three-person board that opposes Altman. Some employees even responded to the news of the new CEO, Emmett Shear, with a less-than-enthusiastic emoji in the company’s Slack channel. The sentiment within the company is evident as employees continue to express their support for Altman by signing an open letter calling for the board’s resignation and Altman’s reinstatement.
In the midst of this turmoil, employees are determined to keep OpenAI afloat while pressuring the board to step down. Social media posts from employees indicate their commitment to ensuring service stability and the company’s continuity.
Shear, the newly appointed CEO, has already encountered roadblocks in his attempts to obtain a detailed explanation from the board regarding Altman’s termination. This information has not been shared with the company’s investors either. Shear stated that his first order of business would be to hire an independent investigator to examine the entire process leading to Altman’s firing.
Altman, in a post on the platform X, reiterated his commitment to OpenAI’s success and affirmed that he and Microsoft will ensure continuity for partners and customers. However, the compatibility of this commitment with the move to Microsoft for over 700 former OpenAI employees remains uncertain. Additionally, Altman is not yet listed in Microsoft’s internal corporate directory.
The board members who remain opposed to Altman’s return are Adam D’Angelo, CEO of Quora, Tasha McCauley, former CEO of GeoSim Systems, and Helen Toner, the director of strategy at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology. Their insistence on maintaining their positions adds to the complexity of the situation.
As the situation continues to unfold, it remains to be seen whether Altman and Brockman will be able to come back to OpenAI or if they will embark on a new chapter with Microsoft. The fate of OpenAI hangs in the balance as negotiations, pressure, and internal dissent shape the company’s path forward.