Sam Altman Persists in Efforts to Reclaim OpenAI CEO Position

Following his abrupt departure from OpenAI and subsequent move to Microsoft, Sam Altman is reportedly not resigned to his exit. According to multiple sources speaking to The Verge, both Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman remain open to the idea of returning to OpenAI on the condition that the board members who ousted Altman step aside.

As a result of the anticipated departure of almost all OpenAI employees, including key figures like board member and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, pressure on the board has intensified. With just two of the three remaining members requiring a change of heart, Altman’s recent statement, “we are all going to work together some way or other,” hints at an ongoing struggle.

Despite the Microsoft hiring announcement, sources with direct knowledge of the situation maintain that Altman, Brockman, and the company’s investors are actively seeking a resolution with the board. The Microsoft announcement is described as a temporary measure to address the immediate crisis before the stock market opened on Monday.

A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment.

Update November 20th, 6:18PM ET: Following the publication of this story, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella addressed the situation on CNBC and Bloomberg TV. When questioned about the possibility of Sam Altman and OpenAI’s staff joining Microsoft, Nadella deferred the decision to the OpenAI board, management, and employees. He emphasized Microsoft’s explicit partnership with OpenAI, contingent upon the people at OpenAI choosing to stay or come to Microsoft.

Regarding Microsoft’s potential seat on OpenAI’s board, Nadella acknowledged the necessity for governance changes, indicating a forthcoming dialogue with OpenAI’s board to address these issues.

During his appearance on Bloomberg TV, Nadella stressed the importance of transparency in governance changes and deferred the decision of OpenAI’s CEO appointment to OpenAI and its board.

Here’s the remainder of the original story:

Negotiations between Altman and the board regarding his potential reinstatement reached a deadlock following his sudden dismissal. While replacements for the board were being considered in the event of Altman’s return, the board itself was conducting a search for a new CEO in parallel. The subsequent announcement of Emmett Shear as CEO seemed to signal the end of Altman’s potential return.

Employees responded to the news of a new CEO in OpenAI’s Slack with a ‘fuck you’ emoji

A power struggle has unfolded within OpenAI since Altman’s dismissal, with the majority of employees opposing the current three-person board. Employees at the company’s San Francisco headquarters reportedly refused to attend a scheduled all-hands meeting with new CEO Emmett Shear and expressed their dissatisfaction via a “fuck you” emoji in OpenAI’s Slack.

Later that evening, Sutskever flipped on the board, even though he had played a key role in the ousting of Altman just days earlier. His name was on an open letter to the board on Monday calling for them to resign and reinstate Altman, which nearly the whole company has now signed.

On Monday, employees started posting on social media that they are continuing to keep the lights on and maintain service stability for OpenAI’s developers, which we’re told is being done to ensure the company doesn’t fully implode while the board is pressured to resign.

New CEO Emmett Shear has so far been unable to get written documentation of the board’s detailed reasoning for firing Altman, which also hasn’t been shared with the company’s investors, according to people familiar with the situation. He said in a note to employees Sunday night that his first order of business would be to “hire an independent investigator to dig into the entire process leading up to this point and generate a full report.”

Moments after this story was first published, Altman said in another X post that his “top priority remains to ensure openai continues to thrive,” and that he and Microsoft “are committed to fully providing continuity of operations to our partners and customers.”

It’s not clear how going to Microsoft with over 700 former OpenAI employees is compatible with ensuring OpenAI continues to thrive, or how that can be reasonably set as a priority for those former employees once they are working at Microsoft. Also: Altman is not in Microsoft’s internal corporate directory yet.

The remaining board holdouts who oppose Altman are Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, former GeoSim Systems CEO Tasha McCauley, and Helen Toner, the director of strategy at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology. They have so far not responded to The Verge’s requests for comment.

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