OpenAI investors are engaged in a spectacular attempt to remove the company’s board and reappoint Sam Altman as its chief executive, according to reports.
The action is said to have the backing of Microsoft and Thrive Capital, OpenAI’s two largest investors, and could result in the disposal of the directors before the weekend is over, the Financial Times reported.
Altman is open to a return on the condition the board is replaced and that several changes are made to its governance structures, the report said.
Those close to the efforts are reportedly hoping the counter-coup can be executed by the end of this weekend.
The move is the latest twist in a dramatic and fast-moving turn of events that began after Altman, who co-founded the company and run it since 2019, was unceremoniously ousted by its board on Friday.
In a statement posted on OpenAI’s blog on Friday, the Silicon Valley firm said: “Sam Altman will depart as CEO and leave the board of directors [because] he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.”
Mira Murati was appointed as interim CEO.
Hours after Altman’s sacking, president and co-founder Greg Brockman – along with several senior researchers – resigned in protest, leaving the company’s remaining executives scrambling to prevent a wave of mass departures.
According to a report in The Information, Chief Strategy Officer Jason Kwon wrote to staff on Saturday stating that efforts were underway to restore Altman and Brockman to their positions. “We are still working towards a resolution and we remain optimistic,” the note said, according to the report.
Altman and Brockman are also considering setting up a rival firm according to reports. The move would, the Financial Times reported, have the backing of several venture funds who currently invest in OpenAI, but a return for the pair is seen as the solution of choice for many backers.
The controversy has laid bare the unorthodox and somewhat paradoxical governance structure that lies at the heart of the firm, whereby its board oversees OpenAI, a for profit company, but itself operates as a non-profit. Rather than having a fiduciary duty to its shareholders, the board is committed to a charter that prioritises “non-maleficence”, promising to do no harm.
Early on Sunday, Altman took to X to say somewhat cryptically: “I love the openai team so much.”
OpenAI was contacted for comment.
Reporting by Ali Lyon