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OpenAI investors push to bring Altman back as CEO a day after his ouster by the board

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, speaks at the OpenAI DevDay event on November 6, 2023 in San Francisco, California.

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OpenAI investors are pushing to bring Sam Altman back as CEO a day after his departure. ousted by the board, according to people familiar with the matter.

Microsoft, Tiger Global and venture capital firm Thrive Capital are among OpenAI’s major backers involved in efforts to reinstate Altman, said a source, who asked not to be named because the discussions are confidential .

Sequoia Capital has also been in contact with Altman, a person familiar with the matter told CNBC. Sequoia supports Altman and former OpenAI President Greg Brockman in whatever they choose to do next, whether returning to OpenAI or building a new startup, the person said. Sequoia also informed Microsoft that it would support efforts to bring back Altman and Brockman, the person said.

The Verge first reported on talks to bring back Altman. The publication, citing a source, said Altman was “ambivalent” about his return and would demand governance changes. Altman did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment. Neither does Thrive. Microsoft declined to comment.

OpenAI’s announcement Friday evening that the company was firing Altman and replacing him on an interim basis with chief technology officer Mira Murati sent shockwaves throughout Silicon Valley. OpenAI has become the hottest startup on the planet since launching its chatbot ChatGPT last year and spurring a rush into the investment-generating artificial intelligence market. The company was reportedly in talks as recently as last month to sell employee shares at a valuation of $86 billion.

Microsoft, which has invested billions of dollars in OpenAI and maintains a close technology partnership with the company, was surprised by the announcement. In addition to ousting Altman, the company removed Brockman, the chairman, from his board leadership position but said he would remain chairman. Brockman said later that day that he had resigned.

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