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OpenAI Investors Push for Sam Altman’s Reinstatement, but Reach Impasse

The push to get Sam Altman back at the head of OpenAI has reportedly hit a roadblock.

Altman was removed as CEO of the artificial intelligence startup on Friday (Nov. 17) over an apparent conflict with the board. In the days since, his supporters — including Microsoft, the company’s biggest investor — have worked to get him reinstated.

However, a report Sunday (Nov. 19) by Bloomberg News said discussions have reached a stalemate over the role and makeup of the company board.

Sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg Altman and former company President Greg Brockman were at the startup’s headquarters. There, a number of leaders are calling for the board to step down and for Altman and Brockman — who resigned last week — to be reinstalled.

Sources say Altman is open to coming back but wants some changes to the company’s governance, including the ouster of existing board members.

Altman, who helped found OpenAI, was removed last week as the company’s chief executive and as a member of its board. The board named Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati to serve as interim CEO.

“Mr. Altman’s departure follows a deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities,” the company said in a Friday (Nov. 17) blog post. “The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.”

The news came as a surprise, arriving days after OpenAI held a developers’ day in which it shared details about its new GPT-4 Turbo AI model, which comes with expanded capabilities and knowledge, and unveiled plans to pay creators who are subscribed to the program for using GPTs they have made.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was “blindsided” and “furious” by the board’s move, an earlier Bloomberg report said.

A report Sunday by the New York Times offers a closer look at the tensions that led to Altman’s ouster, describing it as the result of a conflict between the company’s skyrocketing commercial success and calls for greater focus on AI safety.

That report — citing an internal memo — says that OpenAI employees were informed Saturday that Altman’s removal was not due to “malfeasance or anything related to our financial, business, safety or security/privacy practice.”

Altman so far has given no indication he’d want to come back.

“Today was a weird experience in many ways,” Altman wrote on X Saturday (Nov. 18). “But one unexpected one is that it has been sorta like reading your own eulogy while you’re still alive. the outpouring of love is awesome.”