Talks to return Sam Altman continue at OpenAI

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Discussions were underway Tuesday about the future of OpenAI and the possible return of Sam Altman, the artificial intelligence company’s ousted CEO, people familiar with the discussions said, a day after nearly all employees threatened to resign.

Investors and executives were looking for a plan to bring back Altman, who had already announced Monday that he would lead Microsoft’s new AI lab.

Altman’s sudden move to Microsoft is not yet final, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced in an interview with CNBC on Monday. A person familiar with the matter said he would only return to OpenAI if the board members who ousted him resigned. In the CNBC interview Monday afternoon, Nadella sought to reassure customers and investors that his company is on solid footing regardless of the outcome. He left the door open for Altman to return to OpenAI or continue as AI lead at Microsoft, although he announced late Sunday night that Altman would be joining Microsoft. “I’m open to both options,” Nadella said in an interview with CNBC.

Altman has also signaled that he could still return. “We will all work together in one way or another,” he said in a post Monday morning on X, formerly Twitter. He added that “the top priority remains to ensure OpenAI continues to thrive.” We are committed to providing full operational continuity to our partners and customers.”

That leaves the fate of Altman and OpenAI unclear, more than three full days after the board fired him.

The latest developments come amid dizzying days for OpenAI that have thrown the lab’s future into question, a drastic reversal of fortune for a company that until just days ago was considered one of Silicon Valley’s most promising startups with a valuation of nearly 90 billion U.S. dollar.

On Friday, the board abruptly removed Altman from his role as chief executive, saying he had been “not consistently candid” in his communications. This set off a two-day period in which Altman visited company headquarters to negotiate his possible return to the lab, only to see those negotiations collapse Sunday night into early Monday, when Microsoft announced that Altman, along with Greg Brockman joining the company would be OpenAI president, who had resigned in solidarity with Altman.

Late Sunday, OpenAI’s board said it would support Altman’s ouster and named Emmett Shear as interim CEO. shear is the co-founder of Twitch, a popular video game streaming platform.

On Monday, nearly all employees signed a letter threatening to quit unless the current board resigned and reappointed Altman. In a bizarre twist, among the letter’s signatories was Ilya Sutskever, the company’s chief scientist and a key member of the company’s four-member board, which voted to remove Altman on Friday.

“Your actions have made it clear that you are unable to oversee OpenAI,” the employees wrote in the letter. “We are unable to work for or with people who lack competence, judgment and care for our mission and our people.”

On Tuesday morning, Kevin Scott, chief technology officer at Microsoft, pointed out