OpenAI Turmoil: Investors in OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT, are reportedly exploring legal options against the company’s board, following the controversial ousting of CEO Sam Altman. The move has triggered concerns of a potential mass employee exodus and financial losses for investors.
Legal advisors are assisting investors in evaluating their options, though it remains uncertain if they will pursue legal action against OpenAI. The worry centers on potential financial losses, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, as OpenAI is considered a valuable asset in investors’ portfolios within the rapidly growing generative AI sector.
Microsoft holds a 49% stake in the for-profit operating company, while other investors and employees control another 49%, with the remaining 2% owned by OpenAI’s nonprofit parent. OpenAI, with more than 700 employees, faced a crisis when Altman was dismissed due to a “breakdown of communications,” as stated in an internal memo.
The majority of OpenAI’s workforce threatened resignation unless the board was replaced. Unlike typical venture capital-backed companies, OpenAI’s unique structure, controlled by its nonprofit parent, gives employees more leverage in influencing board decisions.
The nonprofit’s board has legal obligations, including the duty to exercise care and avoid self-dealing. However, experts suggest that the corporate structure of OpenAI, using a limited liability company as its operating arm, could provide additional insulation for the nonprofit’s directors against investor claims.
Even if investors pursue legal action, experts suggest they might face challenges due to companies having broad legal latitude to make business decisions, even those that may have negative consequences. The situation highlights the intricacies of OpenAI’s structure, which, while preserving its core mission, introduces complexities in governance and decision-making.