Former OpenAI Boss Sam Altman’s Potential Return
The ex-boss of leading artificial intelligence firm OpenAI has posted a photo of himself at its HQ, following reports he is set to return after being sacked on Friday. Sam Altman is pictured holding a guest ID pass and comments: “First and last time I ever wear one of these”.
The 38-year-old helped launch the firm which created the popular ChatGPT bot. On Friday the board dismissed Mr Altman saying it had lost confidence in him. Reports this weekend, however, have suggested investors and employees are pushing for Mr Altman to be reinstated.
According to tech news site The Information, Mr Altman and Greg Brockman – another co-founder who quit on Friday as the company’s president – were invited to the firm’s San Francisco headquarters for talks on Sunday. The BBC has contacted OpenAI for comment.
Mr Altman is seen as one of the most influential figures in the fast-growing generative AI space and his sacking sent shockwaves across the industry. In a letter on Friday, the company’s board accused him of not being “consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities”.
The board did not specify what he is alleged to have not been candid about. However, whatever the board was so alarmed about on Friday has perhaps been overtaken by the global reaction to its decision. There may also have been fears of Mr Altman setting up a rival company and taking OpenAI’s top talent with him.
Reports this weekend suggested his sacking had angered current and former employees who were worried it might affect an upcoming $86bn (£69bn; €79bn) share sale. The firm’s venture capitalist backers and the tech giant Microsoft – which has a $10bn stake in OpenAI – have also called for his return, according to the FT.
Sources say there have been a couple of sleepless nights in Seattle, the headquarters of Microsoft, which has also integrated OpenAI’s technology into its applications.
If Mr Altman does indeed return, some speculate he may demand the creation of a new board of directors. Dan Ives from investment firm Wedbush Securities told BBC News he believes Mr Altman will be restored as OpenAI’s chief executive.
“The board clearly overplayed their hands. I would almost call it a coup attempt, in terms of trying to get Altman out. But this is going to backfire,” Mr Ives said. “I would expect the board to be out in the next 24 hours and Altman to be back. He is the golden child of AI. That continues to be what Microsoft and other investors are focused on.”
OpenAI is widely seen to be a company at its peak, with lucrative investment pouring in, and ChatGPT – which was launched almost a year ago – is used by millions. Mr Altman has been the face of the firm’s rise. More than that, he is seen by many as the face of the industry more widely.
His ousting sparked an outpouring of support from Silicon Valley bosses, including former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt who called Mr Altman “a hero of mine” and said that he had “changed our collective world forever”.
Additional reporting by BBC business reporter Annabelle Liang