OpenAI potentially considering reinstating its freshly-ousted CEO Sam Altman

OpenAI potentially considering reinstating its freshly-ousted CEO Sam Altman

Following his surprise firing on Friday, currently-former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman might not be as out of a job as we initially thought he was, according to new word from The Verge on Saturday. Reportedly, sources close to Altman say that the board itself, in a stunning reversal, have “agreed in principal” to resign while reinstating him to his former position. However, the board has since reportedly missed a 5pm PT deadline regarding the decision.

Shortly after Altman’s firing on Friday afternoon, several senior staffers including former Chairman and President Greg Brockman, Director of Research Jakub Pachocki, Head of Preparedness Aleksander Madry and Senior Researcher Szymon Sidor tendered their resignations in protest. Numerous additional OpenAI staffers were set to quit in solidarity at that meeting. They’re reportedly willing to follow Altman, a la Jerry Maguire, to a new AI startup venture should he decide to launch one.

An internal memo circulated after Altman’s dismissal argued that his termination was not related to “malfeasance or anything related to our financial, business, safety, or security/privacy practices,” per Axios’ reporting.

Microsoft is a major investor in the OpenAI venture — having injected some $10 billion into the project’s coffers this past January as part of a long term partnership between the two. It maintains the “utmost confidence” in OpenAI interim-CEO Mira Murati, and “remains confident” in the partnership overall.

Despite those assurances, rank-and-file employees were given little notice prior to the official announcement going out (Altman himself receiving even less) of the change in leadership. Altman had, in the days leading up to his termination, remained an active supporter and recruiter for the firm, appearing at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum less than a day prior to his firing.

According to the New York Times, neither Altman nor Brockman are guaranteed a return to power, largely on account of the company’s non-profit origins, which preclude investors from directing company-wide decisions. They instead leave those choices to members of the board itself. Altman and Brockman were both members of the OpenAI board. However, with their departures, only lead researcher, Ilya Sutskever; Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo; director of strategy at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology Helen Toner; and computer scientist Tasha McCauley remain members — at least, through the weekend.

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Andrew Tarantola

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