Sam Altman became the face of the artificial intelligence craze through his role as chief executive officer of OpenAI. But his wealth goes far beyond the startup behind ChatGPT.

The 38-year-old is worth at least $2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, which is valuing his fortune for the first time. That figure doesn’t include any stake in OpenAI, which was recently valued at $86 billion. Altman has repeatedly said that he does not own equity in the company. Rather, much of his traceable wealth is in a web of VC funds and startup investments, and is set to grow with the initial public offering of Reddit, where he’s among the largest shareholders. 

Altman declined to comment. 

Altman became a globe-trotting AI evangelist, using his pulpit to both inspire and terrify with his predictions about what the technology augurs for elections, art, education, economies and society. As OpenAI’s ChatGPT turbocharged a stock market rally, his profile grew — and his recent time in the spotlight has included bouts of intrigue and controversy.

Elon Musk, a co-founder of OpenAI, sued Altman and the startup Thursday for violating its founding mission by prioritizing profit over benefiting humanity. Late last year, Altman was suddenly ousted from OpenAI after the board said he hadn’t been “consistently candid in his communications” — but he was reinstated days later. (Regulators are now studying his internal messages as part of a probe into whether investors were misled, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.)

The sources of his wealth are relatively opaque. Altman invests in an array of closely held companies such as Musk’s Neuralink that don’t disclose his precise stake and are not included in Bloomberg’s wealth calculation. 

The bulk of his traceable net worth comes from $1.2 billion invested in a set of venture capital funds with variations on the name Hydrazine Capital, according to regulatory filings and Bloomberg estimates. He has an additional $434 million in funds at Apollo Projects, which invests in “moonshots,” according to its website.

Some of those VC funds are among the entities affiliated with Altman that own 8.7% of Reddit, the popular message-board site that filed for an IPO last week. The offering could value the company at as much $6.5 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. That would provide a windfall for the funds, which have a stake more than double the size of Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman’s.

Altman also lavished money on two lesser-known startups. He led a $500 million investment round in nuclear fusion company Helion Energy Inc. in 2021, and he invested $180 million in Retro Biosciences, which is working on lengthening the average human lifespan by 10 years. 

“It’s a lot,” Altman told the MIT Technology Review last year. “I basically just took all my liquid net worth and put it into these two companies.” 

YC Days

Altman overlapped with Huffman and fellow Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian in the first cohort of startup incubator Y Combinator in 2005. At the time, he was working on a geolocation company called Loopt, which turned out to be a relative flop for the now-storied venture program when it was acquired for little more than it raised.

That was only the beginning of Altman’s relationship to YC and its affiliated startups. He went on to become president of the incubator in 2014, and backed some of the best-known companies that moved through the YC accelerator, including Instacart.

A 2016 New Yorker profile quoted one YC partner who said Altman “went off and did something else on the side that we didn’t know about for a while” — that was YC Research, which later backed OpenAI. 

Altman left YC in 2019 to become CEO of OpenAI, which he co-founded as a nonprofit several years earlier. The company later added a for-profit structure with a cap on financial payouts to investors.

In Congressional testimony and interviews, Altman has said he doesn’t own equity in the company. While some employees have received equity-like compensation called profit-participation units, Altman doesn’t hold PPUs either, company spokesperson Steve Sharpe said in an emailed statement.

Sharpe also said Altman won’t receive any financial benefit from the OpenAI Startup Fund, which raised $175 million to take stakes in early-stage AI companies. Although regulatory filings show Altman owns more than 75% of the fund, he hasn’t invested his own money and won’t profit from its gains, according to Sharpe.

–With assistance from Biz Carson.

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