December 6, 2023
Former OpenAI boss returns to HQ amid reports of comeback – BBC News

  • By Zoe Kleinman, Technology Editor and Daniel Thomas, Business Reporter
  • BBC News

19 November 2023

Updated 1 hour ago

image Caption,

Investors are reportedly seeking to reinstate Mr Altman

The former boss of leading artificial intelligence firm OpenAI has posted a photo of himself at its headquarters following reports he has returned after being fired on Friday.

X, while writing on Twitter in the east, Sam Altman is depicted holding a guest ID pass and commented: “First and last time I have worn one of them”.

The 38-year-old helped launch the firm that created the popular ChatGPT bot.

On Friday the board fired Mr Altman, saying it had lost confidence in him.

However, reports this weekend revealed that investors and employees are pushing for Mr. Altman to be reinstated.

According to tech news site The Information, Mr. Altman and Greg Brockman — another co-founder, who stepped down as the company’s chairman on Friday — were invited to the firm’s San Francisco headquarters for talks on Sunday .

The BBC has contacted OpenAI for comment.

Mr Altman is seen as one of the most influential figures in the fast-growing generative AI field and his dismissal has shocked the entire industry.

In a letter Friday, the company’s board accused him of “not being consistently forthright in his communications with the board, hindering his ability to carry out his responsibilities.”

The board did not specify what he was accused of not being clear about.

However, what the board was so concerned about on Friday may have been overshadowed by the global reaction to its decision. There may also be a fear of Mr. Altman setting up a rival company and taking OpenAI’s top talent with him.

Reports this weekend revealed that his dismissal had angered current and former employees, who were concerned it could impact the upcoming $86 billion (£69 billion; €79 billion) share sale.

According to the FT, the company’s venture capitalist backers and tech giant Microsoft – which has a $10 billion stake in OpenAI – have also called for their withdrawal.

Sources say it has led to some sleepless nights at Microsoft’s headquarters in Seattle, which has also integrated OpenAI’s technology into its applications.

image Caption,

OpenAI’s bot ChatGPT is used by millions of people around the world

If Mr. Altman does indeed return, some speculate that he might seek the creation of a new board of directors.

Dan Ives of investment firm Wedbush Securities told BBC News he believed Mr Altman would be reinstated as chief executive of OpenAI.

Mr. Ives said, “The board clearly overplayed its hand. In terms of trying to oust Altman, I would almost call it an attempted coup. But it’s going to backfire.”

“I expect the board to be out in the next 24 hours and Altman to be back. He’s the golden child of AI. That’s what Microsoft and other investors are focused on.”

OpenAI is widely seen as a company at its peak, with lucrative investments coming in, and ChatGPT – which launched about a year ago – is used by millions of people.

Mr. Altman has been the face of the company’s rise. What’s more, many see him as the face of the industry more broadly.

He testified before a US Congressional hearing to discuss the opportunities and risks posed by the new technology and also appeared at the world’s first AI Security Summit in the UK in early November.

His ouster sparked support from Silicon Valley bosses, including former Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, who called Mr Altman “my hero” and said he “changed our collective world forever”.

Additional reporting by BBC Business reporter Annabelle Liang


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