OpenAI investors plot last-minute push with Microsoft to reinstate Sam Altman as CEO


A day after OpenAI’s board of directors fired former CEO Sam Altman in a shock development, investors in the company are plotting how to restore him in what would amount to an even more surprising counter-coup.
OpenAI CEO Samuel Altman Testifies To Senate Committee On Rules For Artificial Intelligence

Sam Altman appears for testimony before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law

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Venture capital firms holding positions in OpenAI’s for-profit entity have discussed working with Microsoft and senior employees at the company to bring back Altman, even as he has signaled to some that he intends to launch a new startup, four sources told Forbes.

Whether the companies would be able to exert enough pressure to pull off such a move — and do it fast enough to keep Altman interested — is unclear.

The playbook, a source told Forbes would be straightforward: make OpenAI’s new management, under acting CEO Mira Murati and the remaining board, accept that their situation was untenable through a combination of mass revolt by senior researchers, withheld cloud computing credits from Microsoft, and a potential lawsuit from investors. Facing such a combination, the thinking is that management would have to accept Altman back, likely leading to the subsequent departure of those believed to have pushed for Altman’s removal, including cofounder Ilya Sutskever and board director Adam D’Angelo, the CEO of Quora.

Should such an effort not come together in time, Altman and OpenAI ex-president Greg Brockman were set to raise capital for a new startup, two sources said. “If they don’t figure it out asap, they’d just go ahead with Newco,” one source added.

OpenAI had not responded to a request for comment at publication time. Microsoft declined to comment.

At least one firm, Sequoia, was independently in contact with Microsoft to encourage it to work to restore Altman and Brockman, according to a source with knowledge of the matter. The firm would support Altman whichever option he chose, the source added.

Earlier on Saturday, The Information reported that Altman was already meeting with investors to raise funds for such a project. One source close to Altman said that both options remained possible. “I think he truly wants the best outcome,” said the person. “He doesn’t want to see lives destroyed.”

A key player in any attempted reinstatement would be Microsoft, OpenAI’s key partner that has poured $10 billion into the company. CEO Satya Nadella was left surprised and “furious” by the ouster, Bloomberg reported. Microsoft has sent only a fraction of that stated dollar amount to OpenAI, per a Semafor report. A source close to Microsoft’ thinking said the company would prefer to see stability at a key partner.

The Verge reported on Saturday that OpenAI’s board was in discussions to bring back Altman. It was unclear if such discussions were the immediate result of the investor pressure.

On Friday, Forbes reported how investors had been left blindsided by Altman’s firing by OpenAI’s board of directors, an unusual group for a large, high-valued technology company.

This is a developing story. More to come.

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