(Bloomberg) — OpenAI investors are still trying to get co-founder Sam Altman back into a leadership role at the ChatGPIT maker, and Microsoft Corp. has signaled it would not oppose such an outcome.
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Thrive Capital, Khosla Ventures and Tiger Global Management are looking to secure their investment after the OpenAI board ousted Altman on Friday, according to people familiar with the matter. Altman is eager to return, said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss the confidential talks.
On Sunday, OpenAI’s largest investor to date, Microsoft Corp. said it was appointing Altman, former OpenAI president Greg Brockman and unnamed “collaborators” into a new Microsoft artificial intelligence unit, which Altman would appoint as CEO.
But Microsoft would also be willing to return to Altman and Brockman’s OpenAI — albeit with some key conditions. According to people familiar with the software giant’s thinking, the startup’s current board would have to resign, and OpenAI’s governance would have to be changed to ensure such turmoil never happens again.
Investors led by Thrive Capital plan to offer to buy shares from OpenAI employees through a tender, a deal that would value the company at $86 billion. Despite the turmoil at OpenAI, Thrive, which is leading the offer, is moving ahead with its plans, believing it can lure Altman back to OpenAI, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The money hasn’t been wired yet, and if Altman doesn’t back out, it could jeopardize those plans.
Tiger Global, Microsoft and Thrive declined to comment. OpenAI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Chief scientist and co-founder Ilya Sutskever, a member of the OpenAI board, apologized in a tweet on Monday morning and said he regretted his role in the coup. Meanwhile, most of OpenAI’s employees have threatened to quit unless Altman returns.
Still, it’s not clear that Thrive and other investors will be able to turn back the clock. For starters, some of these people were hopeful over the weekend that they might force the OpenAI board to back down. Instead, directors offered Altman’s old job to several Silicon Valley executives and eventually named former Twitch chief Emmett Shear as interim CEO.
Joining Altman for his return are other board members, Adam D’Angelo, co-founder and CEO of Quora; Tasha McCauley, CEO of GeoSim Systems; And Helen Toner, director of strategy and fundamental research grants at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, has to push back.
Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Khosla Ventures, one of OpenAI’s early investors, said he believes D’Angelo has screwed up. “If Adam does what Ilya did, then yes, it’s an easier path,” he said in an interview. “If he doesn’t do it, it’s going to be a legal battle of several months.” D’Angelo did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Some investors are already considering a lawsuit against the OpenAI board, according to people familiar with their thinking.
–With assistance from Hema Parmar and Katie Roof.
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