OpenAI's board of directors fired its co-founder and CEO Sam Altman on November 18, 2023, in a move that shocked the artificial intelligence community. However, the story took a dramatic turn just one day later, as investors began to pressure the board to reinstate Altman.

According to Bloomberg and other media outlets, investors including Thrive Capital and Tiger Global Management are in talks with OpenAI's largest shareholder, Microsoft, to have Altman restored as CEO.

Altman himself may decide as early as Saturday evening whether to return to OpenAI. If he does, the company's board of directors would need to be replaced. If he does not, he could continue to pursue his new startup plans.

The Verge reports that OpenAI's board has already agreed in principle to resign and allow Altman and co-founder and chairman Greg Brockman, who also resigned on November 18, to return. However, the board's hesitation to resign by the deadline has added to the uncertainty surrounding the situation.

As for why investors are so eager to have Altman back, a public letter from Varun Mathur, CEO of the AI company Hyperspace, published on the X platform (formerly Twitter) may offer some clues.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Wants Sam Altman Back

According to foreign media citing informed sources, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been in touch with Altman and promised to support him no matter what steps he takes next. Other reports say that Nadella currently hopes to ensure that Altman can return to work at OpenAI by next Monday (November 20) Pacific Time. Nadella himself was caught off guard by OpenAI’s decision to fire Altman.

Some informed sources said that if Altman eventually returns to OpenAI, he may ask to change the way the company is managed.

The report also said that Thrive Capital was supposed to lead the tender offer for the shares held by OpenAI employees, but it has not yet raised enough funds, and it has made it clear to OpenAI that Altman’s departure will affect its tender offer. It is reported that Thrive Capital is the largest shareholder of OpenAI besides Microsoft. The company is also demanding to restore Altman’s CEO position, and Thrive Capital is also working hard to restore Greg Brockman’s position.

Photo/Screenshot of The Verge report

According to The Verge citing a source close to Altman, the OpenAI board has tentatively agreed to resign and allow Altman and Greg Brockman to return, but because the form is still unclear, the board members have been hesitant and missed the key deadline of 5 pm Pacific Time on Saturday. This time is critical because many OpenAI employees will resign before this deadline.

One of the informed sources quoted by Bloomberg said that Altman is open to returning to OpenAI. The Information reported that Altman may decide whether to return to OpenAI on Saturday night Pacific Time. At 12:49 noon on November 19, Altman said on social media, “I really like the OpenAI team.” Brockman then reposted and liked it.

Photo/ X 

The OpenAI board has been strongly criticized by all parties for firing Altman, which was unexpected for both the company’s investors and Altman himself. Altman was fired on the same day, and OpenAI co-founder and chairman Greg Brockman resigned in protest. Informed sources also said that the resignation of OpenAI executives may continue.

The remaining members of the OpenAI board include: OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, former GeoSim Systems CEO Tasha McCauley, and Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology strategic director Helen Toner.

OpenAI, Microsoft, Thrive Capital and Tiger Global Management all declined to comment on any of the above content.

For the latest developments in the matter, some netizens joked on X (formerly Twitter), “I hope (OpenAI) board members use Microsoft Teams for this meeting.” “Silicon Valley is like a documentary.”


Sequoia Capital partner and other venture capitalists publicly support Altman

Meanwhile, more details about Altman’s ambitions in artificial intelligence have also emerged.

Before the news of investors putting pressure on OpenAI was released by media such as Bloomberg and The Verge, there were also media citing informed sources saying that the fired Altman had already planned to set up a new artificial intelligence company, and expected Greg Brockman to join his new project. At present, Altman’s new project is still under development, and the details of the new company are not clear.

According to another informed source, on Friday morning, he had been discussing with executives of semiconductor companies including Arm the preliminary plan to design new chips, which will reduce the cost of large language model companies such as OpenAI. This effort may take several years to achieve. It is not clear whether Altman was representing OpenAI or another company in the discussion.

In addition, Altman also recently discussed hardware projects related to his work at OpenAI. In September this year, Altman had discussed with Apple’s former chief design officer Jony Ive to cooperate on developing a new artificial intelligence hardware device. The two had met with SoftBank CEO and investor Masayoshi Son to establish a potential joint venture, and it is not clear whether the new joint venture involves Ive or Son.

Altman’s tendency to develop new businesses may have been a factor in the board’s decision to fire him. It was reported that Altman tried to raise tens of billions of dollars from Son and Middle Eastern investors to set up a new chip company to compete with Nvidia and TSMC, and the OpenAI board was concerned about this move.

In addition to Thrive Capital and Tiger Global mentioned above, several venture capitalists, including Sequoia Capital general partner Alfred Lin and SV Angel founder Ron Conway, also publicly declared their support for Altman after he was fired on Friday. Their companies all invested in OpenAI. Alfred Lin wrote on X that he looked forward to Altman and Brockman building the next world-changing company.

OpenAI’s investors believe that Altman and Greg Brockman are rare talents in the field of generative artificial intelligence for other software engineers. In particular, Altman personally recruited important researchers and engineers from Google and other companies, who played an important role in the process of OpenAI launching its flagship product ChatGPT.

An open letter from the industry reveals Altman’s importance

Why many investors would pressure OpenAI to demand Altman to return to the CEO position, perhaps a glimpse can be seen from an open letter.

On the day Altman was fired by OpenAI, Varun Mathur, CEO of artificial intelligence company Hyperspace, wrote an open letter on X platform (formerly Twitter) to OpenAI’s chief technology officer and interim CEO Mira Murati and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, directly implying that Mira Murati and Ilya Sutskever had successfully seized power in OpenAI’s “coup”, but the two as entrepreneurs had never raised any funds for OpenAI.

In this open letter, Varun Mathur analyzed Altman’s strengths and said that Murati and Sutskever had inadvertently offended their biggest partner Microsoft. “If there is anything that Altman is particularly good at, it is undoubtedly raising and using capital. Before you print ‘CEO’ and ‘actual CEO’ on your business cards, Altman may have already started a new company, raised $1 billion in investment, and invited all your top product people and researchers who are about to leave.”

“Most of the members of your board have never really worked in the tech industry. You have never experienced the repeated rejections that you encounter in the process of pitching to numerous investors and finally reaching a deal. Sometimes, even if investors say ‘yes’ with their mouths, they don’t mean it in their hearts. Sometimes they even sign the contract, but don’t intend to really pay… After you are crushed by the cruel reality of the market, you will eventually sell OpenAI to Microsoft and become Microsoft’s global chief product manager. Microsoft won’t fire you, Nadella will always say the right thing to you, because he is a man of honor.” Varun Mathur wrote.


Editor: Alexander