Sam Altman, the just ousted chief executive officer of OpenAI, is discussing a possible return to the company behind the ChatGPT bot even as he considers launching a new artificial intelligence (AI) venture, a person briefed on the matter said.
A day after the board fired him in a surprise move that rocked the tech world, Mr. Altman was talking with OpenAI executives about improving the company’s governance structure while he discusses with some core OpenAI researchers and others loyal to Mr. Altman how they could start a new AI company, the person said.
On Sunday, Mr. Altman and former president Greg Brockman joined executives at the company’s San Francisco headquarters on Sunday after interim CEO Mira Murati told staff she invited Mr. Altman, according to a news report.
OpenAI declined to comment on the details of the report from The Information.
Mr. Altman posted on Sunday on messaging platform X an image of himself wearing an OpenAI guest badge with the caption: “first and last time i ever wear one of these.”
The possibilities of a return or a restart for Mr. Altman, seen by many as the face of generative AI, are in flux, said the source, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the parties involved.
OpenAI and Mr. Altman did not reply to requests for comment.
Investors in OpenAI, including its biggest backer Microsoft, are discussing damage control, including possibly pushing the board to restore Mr. Altman as CEO, fearing a mass exodus of talent without him, other sources said.
Khosla Ventures, an early backer of OpenAI, wants Mr. Altman back at OpenAI but “will back him in whatever he does next,” the fund’s founder Vinod Khosla posted on X on Saturday.
Microsoft declined to comment. It reportedly owns 49 per cent of the company, while other investors and employees control 49 per cent, with 2 per cent owned by OpenAI’s non-profit parent.
Emotions ran high on Saturday as current and former employees were angered by Mr. Altman’s sacking and worried over how an upcoming US$86-billion share sale could be affected by the sudden management upheaval.
OpenAI, a non-profit co-founded by billionaire Elon Musk, launched ChatGPT on Nov. 30 last year, setting off a global sensation over generative AI technology that quickly became the world’s fastest-growing software application. It set off a wave of investments and announcements across industries to use AI to enhance everything from financial services and health care to entertainment and media.
Trained on reams of data, generative AI can create human-like content, helping users spin up term papers, complete science homework and even write entire novels. After ChatGPT’s launch, regulators scrambled to catch up: the European Union revised its AI Act and the U.S. kicked off AI regulation efforts.
By Saturday, some shell-shocked employees contemplated quitting if Mr. Altman was not restored by the end of the weekend, one source said. Others expressed support for joining Mr. Altman in starting a company, a third person familiar with the matter said.
Mr. Brockman, who said he quit OpenAI over Mr. Altman’s firing on Friday, is expected to join any effort, according to the Information, which earlier reported the possible new venture, citing a person familiar with the matter.
Mr. Brockman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. OpenAI did not respond to a request for comment.
Some researchers at OpenAI, including Szymon Sidor, have quit the company over the CEO change, but it was unclear if Mr. Sidor and others would join a new Altman venture, two people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Sidor confirmed quitting.
Mr. Altman and Apple’s former design chief Jony Ive have been discussing building a new AI hardware device, The Information reported in September. It reported that SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son had been involved in the conversation.
Mr. Altman’s ouster was over a “breakdown of communications,” not “malfeasance,” chief operating officer Brad Lightcap wrote in an internal company memo on Saturday that was viewed by Reuters.
Tech website The Verge earlier reported the OpenAI board’s discussions with Mr. Altman to return as CEO. Forbes reported on Saturday investors were plotting to restore Mr. Altman as CEO.