Discussions at OpenAI to bring back Sam Altman, the artificial intelligence startup’s recently ousted chief executive, continued Sunday afternoon, but there were disagreements over the composition of the company’s board of directors , according to two people familiar with the discussions.
Mr. Altman, 38, spent the weekend carry out a pressure campaign member of the startup’s four-person board of directors, who ousted him Friday afternoon, three people familiar with the matter said. The result was a groundswell of support from OpenAI investors, employees, and executives.
Mr. Altman was at OpenAI headquarters on Sunday afternoon. He posted a photo of himself on X, formerly Twitter, wearing a guest ID badge and said: “first and last time I’ll ever wear one.” »
The negotiations included a review of how the company’s board could be reshaped if Mr. Altman returns as chief executive, two of the people said. Board members have not yet agreed on what a restructured board might look like — nor is Mr. Altman’s reinstatement inevitable, two of the people said.
There has been a whirlwind of activity since Mr. Altman was forced to leave OpenAI, a company he helped found eight years ago and which became one of the most closely watched tech companies thanks to its popular chatbot ChatGPT.
Sunday afternoon, Will Hurd, former OpenAI board member and a former Republican congressman from Texas, stood outside the company’s headquarters in San Francisco’s Mission District, waiting to be taken to the airport after spending two days digging into the details of Mr. .Altman.
Mr. Hurd said a company representative called him Friday morning, before Mr. Altman was fired, and asked for his help in navigating the management upheaval. Mr. Hurd traveled from Texas to San Francisco on Saturday.
“The industry is important, the business is important,” Mr. Hurd said. “It’s the future. How can we ensure there is a level of trust and transparency? Everything we expect from models, we expect from governance.
OpenAI declined to comment.
The OpenAI board of directors is unique. The organization started as a nonprofit before transforming into a for-profit company and making Microsoft its largest investor. The for-profit company still answers to the nonprofit board. As a result, the company’s investors have not had an official say in the fate of the startup or who runs it.
Before Mr. Altman was forced out, OpenAI had six board members, including Mr. Altman and Greg Brockman, the company’s co-founder and board chairman who resigned Friday in solidarity with Mr. Altman.
Other board members are Ilya Sutskever, co-founder of OpenAI; Adam D’Angelo, CEO of Quora, the question-and-answer site; Helen Toner, director of strategy at the Center for Security and Emerging Technologies at Georgetown; and Tasha McCauley, entrepreneur and computer scientist.
Since Friday, people close to the company have been trying to find out why the board of directors fired Mr. Altman. Brad Lightcap, the company’s chief operating officer, said in a memo to staff Saturday that there was no “malfeasance” involved.
The impasse is the latest twist in a series of power struggles at OpenAI. The fight has drawn attention to a long-standing divide within the AI community between those who believe AI is the greatest business opportunity of a generation and others who fear going too far quickly can be dangerous.
The company was recently in talks to raise a new round of funding that would value it at more than $80 billion. Bloomberg News earlier reported some details of the discussions.
Mr. Altman’s potential reinstatement would be a dramatic turnaround for OpenAI, which said he had not been “consistently candid” in his discussions with the board when it unceremoniously ousted him.
As deliberations continued on Sunday, OpenAI executives called for resources. At 12:45 p.m., a delivery man with a dozen drinks from the Boba Guys chain showed up outside on a motorcycle with two bags. Another delivery guy followed later with half a dozen more drinks.