February 25, 2024


Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI participates in the “Charting the Path Forward: The Future of Artificial Intelligence” at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Week in San Francisco, California, on November 16, 2023.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

OpenAI’s tender offer, which would allow employees to sell shares in the start-up to outside investors, remains on track despite the leadership tumult and board shuffle, two people familiar with the matter told CNBC.

The tender offer will value OpenAI at the same levels as previously reported in October, around $86 billion, and is being led by Josh Kushner’s Thrive Capital, according to the people familiar, who spoke anonymously to discuss private communications freely.

The round and previously reported valuation were jeopardized by Sam Altman’s temporary ouster earlier in November, but his return cleared the way for the tender offer to proceed.

Tender offers do not involve the issuance of new equity. Instead, Thrive and other involved investors will buy existing units belonging largely to employees, giving them liquidity. The $86 billion round is three times OpenAI’s previous fundraise in April, which valued the company at around $28 billion.

Another person familiar told CNBC that the round had been extended to January 5.

The extension of the tender offer comes after a rollercoaster couple of weeks for the company. OpenAI’s nonprofit board argued that Altman “was not consistently candid in his communications with the board” as CEO, and his subsequent departure incited uproar from investors and employees alike, especially after Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Altman and OpenAI president Greg Brockman would lead a new AI lab under Microsoft. Employees threatened to walk en masse, signing an open letter and commenting in support of Altman on social media, which led in part to a significant turnover of OpenAI’s board.

On Wednesday, OpenAI announced Altman and Brockman’s official return to their previous roles, along with a new board, including former Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo.

Microsoft obtained a non-voting board observer position, OpenAI said Wednesday. Nadella had previously told CNBC that new governance would be required at the startup. Microsoft holds a 49% stake in OpenAI.

Not all major backers will receive a director position. Tiger Global will not likely pursue a board seat, a person familiar with the matter said, in line with the firm’s longstanding practice. OpenAI’s other major backers include Founders Fund, Sequoia Capital and, following the completion of the tender offer, Thrive Capital.

The Information and Bloomberg previously reported some details of the tender offer.

Sequoia Capital declined to comment on whether it would be involved in the upcoming tender. Founders Fund will not participate in the tender offer either, a person familiar with the firm said. A spokesperson for Thrive declined to comment beyond saying it remained “committed” to OpenAI.

OpenAI did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

— CNBC’s Ari Levy & Jordan Novet contributed to this report.

WATCH: Elon Musk says OpenAI is lying about using copyrighted data



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