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Investors in OpenAI seek return of fired CEO, US media report

Sam Altman, the since-fired CEO of OpenAI, is seen taking part in a discussion on artificial intelligence in San Francisco on November 16, 2023 (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS)
Sam Altman, the since-fired CEO of OpenAI, is seen taking part in a discussion on artificial intelligence in San Francisco on November 16, 2023 (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS)

Major investors in OpenAI, the company behind hugely popular ChatGPT, are working to orchestrate the return as CEO of Sam Altman, a leader in the AI revolution who was fired in a shock move Friday, US media reported Sunday.

Investors as important as Microsoft and venture firm Thrive Capital "are making efforts to bring back Sam Altman," the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed sources.

Microsoft and Thrive are the two largest investors in OpenAI, but other investors are supportive of these efforts, the Journal said.

The New York Times meantime said that Ilya Sutskever, a respected AI researcher and member of the company's board of directors, had expressed growing concern about the possible dangers of OpenAI's technology, and felt Altman underestimated such risks.

OpenAI sent a shock through the industry on Friday when it announced the immediate ouster of Altman, a major Silicon Valley star.

A statement from OpenAI's board referred to the company's stated mission of making sure artificial intelligence benefits everyone, and said that "new leadership is needed for the company to move forward."

Greg Brockman, one of OpenAI's co-founders, was pushed from the company's board in the shakeup Friday. He said later that he had quit. Several other company officials also said they were leaving.

The company said that Altman's departure followed "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 board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI."

The statement added: "We are grateful for Sam’s many contributions to the founding and growth of OpenAI. At the same time, we believe new leadership is necessary as we move forward."

Sequoia Capital, another investor in OpenAI, said it supported Altman and Brockman in whatever they chose to do next, whether to return to the company or create a new startup, CNBC reported, quoting an unnamed source.

The 38-year-old Altman was pondering a return to the company but wanted changes in both the board of directors and the company's governance structure, the Journal said.

It said Altman was at the same time holding talks on possibly creating a new company, including several of the OpenAI employees who resigned after his firing. A final decision was expected as soon as this weekend.

Since ChatGPT went online on November 30, 2022, millions of people have used it to help compose messages, request a recipe or invent a story for their children -- which the robot can then read to them.

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