Sam Altman’s surprise move to Microsoft after his shock firing at OpenAI isn’t a done deal. He and co-founder Greg Brockman are still willing to return to OpenAI if the remaining board members who fired him step aside, multiple sources tell The Verge.
The promised mass exodus of virtually every OpenAI employee, including board member and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever who led the move to depose Altman, means that there is more pressure on the board than ever, with only two of the three remaining board members needing to flip. Altman just posted on X that “we are all going to work together some way or other,” which we are told is meant to indicate that the fight continues.
Altman, former president Greg Brockman, and the company’s investors are all trying to find a graceful exit for the board, says one source with direct knowledge of the situation, who characterized the Microsoft hiring announcement as a “holding pattern.” Microsoft needed to have some sort of resolution to the crisis before the stock market opened on Monday, according to multiple sources.
Moments after this story was published, Altman said in another X post that his “top priority remains to ensure openai continues to thrive,” and that he and Microsoft “are committed to fully providing continuity of operations to our partners and customers.”
A spokesperson for Microsoft declined to comment.
After Altman was suddenly fired on Friday, negotiations with the board to potentially bring him back reached a stalemate. While OpenAI’s management team and investors were vetting candidates to replace the board for Altman’s potential return, the board was quietly conducting its own CEO search in parallel. Late Sunday, the board announced that Emmett Shear, the co-founder of Twitch, would be CEO, seemingly putting an end to the possibility of Altman coming back.
There has been a non-stop power struggle inside OpenAI since Friday, with nearly all employees against the now three-person board that opposes Altman. On Sunday, OpenAI employees at the company’s San Francisco headquarters refused to attend an emergency all hands scheduled with new CEO Emmett Shear, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Later that evening, Ilya Sutskever flipped on the board, even though he had played a key role in the ousting of Altman just days earlier. His name was on an open letter to the board on Monday calling for them to resign and reinstate Altman, which we are told nearly the whole company has now signed.
On Monday, employees started posting on social media that they are continuing to keep the lights on and maintain service stability for OpenAI’s developers, which we’re told is being done to ensure the company doesn’t completely implode while the board is pressured to resign.
The remaining holdouts on the board are Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, former GeoSim Systems CEO Tasha McCauley, and Helen Toner, the director of strategy at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology.