Newly ousted OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and former president Greg Brockman are currently in discussions with executives at the company’s San Francisco headquarters about the possibility of reinstating their positions. According to The Information, interim CEO Mira Murati and others have been leading the push to get Altman reinstated and invited the two to HQ for talks. Altman and Brockman showed up for discussions on Sunday, indicating that the matter is still under active consideration.
The sudden firing of Altman on Friday, without warning, led to Brockman stepping down in solidarity, along with a number of senior researchers. This move sparked discussions of other staff members potentially resigning as well to follow Altman and Brockman to other projects. In fact, many staff members have shown their support on social media, with The Verge reporting that they have pledged to resign and even posted heart emojis to signify their endorsement of Altman and Brockman.
As the debate over Altman’s position and the future leadership of OpenAI intensifies, the board has been considering the possibility of reinstating Altman as CEO and reportedly “agreed in principle” to resign if this were to happen. However, the board was unable to make a collective decision in time and missed the deadline for the decision. This delay in reaching a decision is partly due to the challenges encountered in determining the structure and role of the board if Altman is reinstated. Altman is seeking governance changes, including the removal of the existing board and the inclusion of former Salesforce CEO Bret Taylor as a board member, and potentially bringing on a Microsoft executive. These proposed changes have led to a stalemate, indicating the complexity of the situation.
Speculation has been rife regarding the reason behind Altman’s removal as CEO, with internal memos stating that the decision was made due to “a breakdown in communication between Sam and the board.” This memo further clarified that the decision was not made in response to any malfeasance or any issues related to OpenAI’s financial, business, safety, or privacy practices. This revelation has only added to the confusion and uncertainty surrounding Altman’s sudden dismissal.
Prior to his unexpected firing, Altman was reportedly fundraising for a custom AI chip project codenamed “Tigris,” as reported by Bloomberg. He had been seeking potential investors for the idea of custom Tensor Processing Units (TPUs) that would rival NVIDIA’s. Altman was also looking to collaborate on hardware projects with former Apple designer Jony Ive and was allegedly pursuing SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son to raise funds for these ambitious projects. The scope of this projected collaboration would require “tens of billions of dollars” to get off the ground, indicating the scale of Altman’s ambitions.
As the discussion at OpenAI headquarters continues, it is clear that the issue of Altman and Brockman’s reinstatement is far from resolved. The future leadership of OpenAI, the composition and role of the board, and the rationale behind Altman’s dismissal remain open questions. The outcome of these deliberations will have a significant impact not only on the leadership and direction of OpenAI but also on the broader AI and technology landscape.