ChatGPT maker OpenAI is working towards a surprise return of co-founder Sam Altman as chief executive, less than 36 hours after his surprise ousting shocked Silicon Valley.
The company’s board are in discussions over Mr Altman returning as chief executive, according to reports. The company’s chief strategy officer Jason Kwon told employees on Saturday evening that the company is “optimistic” he will return, according to tech news website The Information.
Microsoft, which is OpenAI’s biggest backer, is working with investors including Thrive Capital and Tiger Global Management to bring back Mr Altman, according to reports.
Investors are also pushing for OpenAI’s board to be replaced after their surprise decision to oust Mr Altman on Friday night.
The board said Mr Altman had left after the board “concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.”
Details were not given about what triggered the rift.
The surprise move has taken both investors and employees by surprise, with several staff members resigning in protest at Mr Altman’s shock departure.
Mr Altman, a 38-year-old pioneer of artificial intelligence, is a serial technology entrepreneur who has helped turn AI into a technology phenomenon.
OpenAI, a nonprofit also co-founded by billionaire Elon Musk, launched ChatGPT on November 30 last year, triggering a surge of public interest in the space and a gold rush of investment in generative artificial intelligence (AI).
On Wednesday, new sign-ups for ChatGPT Plus service, its premium, were suspended after a surge of interest left it struggling with demand.
Mr Altman has since become a figurehead for the industry. He visited Downing Street in May to hold talks with Rishi Sunak about AI regulation and the tech chief was a key attendee of the Prime Minister’s AI summit earlier this month.
His exit comes at a delicate time for OpenAI, a company he co-founded in 2015. The company is currently in the middle of a funding round that will value it at $86bn (£69bn).
Mr Altman is said to be open to returning to the company, however is understood to want to seek changes to the governance structure if he is reinstated.
There is speculation that Mr Altman may seek to launch a rival venture to OpenAI. He has held talks with some OpenAI researchers about how they could start a new AI company, Reuters reported.
Earlier this year it was reported that Mr Altman was holding talks with Sir Jony Ive, the former Apple chief designer behind the iPhone, about creating an AI device.
Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla wrote on Twitter that he wanted Mr Altman “back at OpenAI but will back him in whatever he does next.”
Mr Altman tweeted on Saturday: “If i start going off, the openai [sic] board should go after me for the full value of my shares
On Sunday morning, he said: “I love the openai team so much.”