Artificial intelligence firm OpenAI is facing “intense discussions” to keep its ship afloat, after employees threatened to quit if it failed to reinstate ousted CEO Sam Altman.
According to Bloomberg, an internal memo from OpenAI’s vice president of global affairs Anna Makanju describes the company as being in “intense discussions” to merge the company, with management discussions with the board, Altman and the bag appointed interim CEO Emmett Shear. “They are not ready to give us a final answer tonight,” Makanju wrote.
The memo comes after days of turmoil at OpenAI, which saw Altman ousted in a boardroom coup before he was tapped to form an “advanced AI research team” with co-founder Greg Brockman to the company’s biggest investor, Microsoft.
With more than 90% of the company’s 770 employees threatening to quit and follow Altman in his new venture, Reuters reported Monday that some of the company’s investors are exploring legal options. Meanwhile, investors including Thrive Capital, Kholsa Ventures and Tiger Global Management are reportedly trying to orchestrate Altman’s return to OpenAI, with Microsoft signaling it won’t oppose the move.
OpenAI’s management is under scrutiny
According to an unnamed source cited by BloombergMicrosoft has attached conditions to the future return for Altman and Brockman, including the resignation of OpenAI’s current board and a change in its management to prevent a repeat of the chaos of the week.
OpenAI uses an unusual non-profit governance structure that gives the board sweeping powers to resist pressure from investors — a safety measure originally intended to ensure the board acts for in the interest of “the people” rather than allowing the development of AGI.
That structure came under scrutiny after last week’s events, with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaking out CNBC that, “At this point, I think it’s very clear that something needs to change in the management environment.”
Microsoft shares hit an all-time high Monday following news of Altman’s move to the company, as Nadella emphasized that, “We really want to partner with OpenAI and we really want to partner with Sam,” in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “Wherever Sam is, he’s working at Microsoft,” Nadella added.