Sam Altman will reportedly not be returning as chief executive of ChatGPT developer OpenAI after talks to reinstate him failed.
The non-profit board of the San Francisco-based company has instead installed Emmett Shear, co-founder of video streaming site Twitch, as OpenAI’s third CEO in three days, according to multiple reports.
Altman was fired on Friday after being accused of not being “consistently candid in communications” with the board in a move that sent shockwaves through Silicon Valley. OpenAI’s investors, led by Microsoft, then led an attempt to reinstate Altman and talks over an about-turn took place at the weekend – with Altman tweeting a picture of himself wearing a guest pass outside OpenAI’s offices.
However, the talks failed and OpenAI’s board has appointed Shear as interim CEO, replacing Altman’s short-lived temporary successor Mira Murati. The news of Altman’s failed return was first reported by tech news site the Information.
On Sunday, Altman had posted an image of himself on X wearing an OpenAI guest badge stating “first and last time I ever wear one of these”.
The Wall Street Journal had earlier reported that Altman’s return was conditional on a new board and governance structure, and Altman had been considering the option of starting a new company with former OpenAI colleagues.
Altman and Apple’s former design chief Jony Ive have been discussing building a new AI hardware device, according to reports. It was also reported that the SoftBank chief executive, Masayoshi Son, had been involved in the conversation.
Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, was reportedly mediating the discussions between Altman and the board.
Altman’s firing by the board on Friday sent shockwaves through the tech sector, and OpenAI staff, with Altman seen as not only the face of the company but also of the AI sector broadly. The Verge had reported that other employees were likely to leave if Altman did not return.
An earlier report quoted a memo from the company’s chief strategy officer, Jason Kwon, telling staff that an effort was under way to bring back Altman and other senior colleagues who had left. Altman’s departure was followed by the resignations of Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s president, and three senior researchers: Jakub Pachocki, Aleksander Mądry and Szymon Sidor.
“We are still working towards a resolution and we remain optimistic,” Kwon wrote, according to the Information. “By resolution, we mean bringing back Sam, Greg, Jakub, Szymon, Aleksander and other colleagues (sorry if I missed you!) and remaining the place where people who want to work on AGI [artificial general intelligence] research, safety, products and policy can do their best work.”
OpenAI is governed by a non-profit parent and its board, which runs a for-profit subsidiary where Altman was CEO. After the departure of Altman and president Brockman – who resigned after Altman’s firing – it now consists of four people: OpenAI’s chief scientist Ilya Sutskever and three non-employees.
OpenAI and Microsoft have been approached for comment.