New York CNN –
Sam Altman is back at OpenAI. Well… anyway, he’s back at OpenAI headquarters in San Francisco. Whether or not he returns as CEO of ChatGPT parent company is still to be decided.
posting on x The recently ousted CEO wrote in a photo of himself on Sunday holding a green guest badge attached to a lanyard labeled “OpenAI”: “First and last time I’m wearing one of these.”
Altman did not say why he was at OpenAI’s office on Sunday, but multiple news reports, including the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, said the board that fired him has had second thoughts and is considering him and the company. A conversation with Greg Brockman. Co-founder and former President, to return. Brockman resigned on Friday, shortly after the company fired Altman.
It was unclear as of Sunday whether Altman would consider a return just days after being ruled out. But his appearance at OpenAI suggests he is at least considering a comeback.
Nevertheless, negotiations between the board and Altman have yet to yield any results, and it is unclear whether Altman will accept the board’s return offer. According to multiple news reports, he could impose conditions, including insisting that Microsoft, OpenAI’s largest investor, take a seat on the board. He also reportedly wants to add other associates as directors.
After Altman and Brockman left the company, OpenAI’s inexperienced board was reduced to just four members: Ilya Sutskever, the company’s chief scientist; Adam D’Angelo, founder of Quora; Tasha McCauley, CEO of 3D modeling company GeoSim Systems; and Helen Toner, director of strategy at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology.
The board said Friday that Altman “was not consistently candid in his communications” with them, an opaque phrase that left much to the imagination. Brockman said in a post on X on Friday that the board gave Altman and other strategic partners almost no information about the decision. This reportedly also includes Microsoft, which does not have a board seat – but has a $13 billion investment in the company.
Shares of Microsoft (MSFT) fell after Altman’s ouster on Friday, and the company’s leadership probably wants to get the wonderful leader of its most promising (and very expensive) investment back on top before the markets open on Monday.
The company is a non-profit organization. But Altman, Brockman and Sutskever formed OpenAI LP in 2019, a for-profit entity that exists within the structure of the larger company. That for-profit company took OpenAI from nothing to a $90 billion valuation in just a few years — and Altman is largely credited as the mastermind of that plan and key to the company’s success.
Altman pushed the for-profit company to innovate faster and go to market with products. This reportedly spooked the company’s board, over which the non-profit wing of the company retained majority control. CNN contributor Kara Swisher reported that OpenAI’s recent developer conference served as an inflection point: Altman announced that OpenAI would make tools available so anyone could create their own version of ChatGPT.
If Altman gets his wishes and returns to OpenAI, the company could look quite different than it does today, with the board focused more on profitability and growth – like most Silicon Valley startups. If not, Altman may reportedly opt for another venture, perhaps steering loyalists away from OpenAI to its new landing spot.
Either way, OpenAI’s board made a consequential decision that will cause massive ripple effects in the AI industry for years to come.